UK to take in extra 3,000 refugees


Britain will welcome another 3,000 refugees under a new resettlement scheme, the Government has announced.

The majority of those arriving will be children, with some accompanied by their families or carers.

It was billed as the "largest programme in the world" for children from the Middle East and North Africa, but the move failed to satisfy demands for the UK to give refuge to youngsters who are stranded in Europe.

The programme is in addition to the 20,000 Syrians that the Government has already committed to resettling from the region surrounding the war-torn country by 2020.

Under the new scheme, several hundreds of individuals will be resettled over the next year, with up to 3,000 being given refuge over the lifetime of the Parliament.

The initiative will not only target unaccompanied children but will be extended to vulnerable children at risk - such as those threatened with child labour, marriage and other forms of abuse or exploitation.

It will be open to all at-risk groups and nationalities within the Middle East and North Africa region, the Home Office said. The scheme will be reviewed after two years.

Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said: "The UK Government is committed to providing life-saving support and assistance to the vulnerable children who have been unjustly impacted by this ongoing humanitarian crisis.

"We have always been clear that the vast majority of vulnerable children are better off remaining in host countries in the region so they can be reunited with surviving family members.

"However, there are exceptional circumstances in which it is in a child's best interests to be resettled in the UK."

He said the new scheme complements "ongoing work within Europe to assist vulnerable migrant children".

However, the Government remains under pressure to offer sanctuary to thousands of unaccompanied child refugees stranded alone in Europe.

Former Labour minister Yvette Cooper said: "This is the same announcement as the Government made back in January and includes nothing new to help the thousands of child refugees alone in Europe who are at risk of trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse.

"As we said at the time, we welcome vital support for children and families at risk in the Middle East and North Africa, but we also cannot turn our backs on the thousands of children who are going missing in Europe because children's homes in Italy and Greece are full, and other countries can't cope with this crisis alone."

Lord Dubs, who has led calls for the relocation of 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children from Europe, said: "While I welcome this proposal, it doesn't deal sufficiently with the substance of my amendment and I will continue to press the Government for more action when the Immigration Bill comes back to the floor of the Lords next week.

"You also have to wonder whether the use of the '3,000' figure is a deliberate ploy to muddy the debate."

Anne Longfield, Children's Commissioner for England, said: "I very much welcome the Government's announcement that the UK is providing refuge to an additional 3,000 vulnerable people from the Middle East and North Africa, the majority of whom are children who are considered to be at risk."

She added: "Other countries in Europe also need to fulfil their moral and legal responsibilities to child migrants, providing protection and immediate care for children in their countries and helping them to reunite with close family members."