UK to take in extra 3,000 refugees


As many as 3,000 more refugees will be brought to Britain under a new resettlement scheme, the Government has announced.

The majority of those arriving over the next four years will be children, with some accompanied by their families or carers.

It was billed as the "largest programme in the world" in the world for children from the Middle East and North Africa and is in addition to the commitment to resettle 20,000 Syrians by 2020.

However, the move failed to ease pressure on the Government over demands for the UK to give refuge to youngsters who are 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 called for the relocation of 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children to the UK from Europe, welcomed the proposal but vowed to continue pressing the Government for more action.

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

The Government described the new scheme as the largest resettlement effort aimed specifically at children at risk from the Middle East and North Africa region.

Several hundreds 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 region and 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".

Anne Longfield, Children's Commissioner for England, welcomed the announcement.

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."

David Simmonds, of the Local Government Association, said: "Councils have a strong track record of supporting refugees, including children at risk, travelling alone or those in extended family groups.

"It is right that the increased resettlement programme is phased in over time and is subject to review, given the vulnerability of the children councils will be welcoming into their communities.

"These new measures must be planned in full partnership with councils and be effectively funded to ensure that services are able to cope with any additional demand and meet children's needs."