Celebrities and campaigners urge PM to keep Dubs scheme for lone child refugees


A raft of celebrities and campaigners are calling on the Prime Minister not to end the Dubs scheme for vulnerable and lone child refugees.

The scheme, named after its architect, Labour peer Lord Alf Dubs, will be capped once another 150 unaccompanied children are brought to Britain, on top of the 200 already in the UK.

Branding the decision "truly shameful", more than 200 figures including Carey Mulligan, Gary Lineker, Keira Knightley, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ralph Fiennes have signed an open letter to Theresa May.

The letter, backed by Help Refugees and Citizen UK's Safe Passage programme, states that it is "completely unacceptable" to "slam the door shut after just 350 children have reached safety".

"Lord Dubs was himself a child saved by Sir Nicholas Winton who rescued 669 children virtually single-handed," it reads.

"It is embarrassing that the Prime Minister's entire Government will not even manage to match the example set by her former constituent all those years ago, let alone the efforts of the Kindertransport movement of which he was a part which saved 10,000 children from the Nazis."

A storm of criticism has engulfed the Government since the announcement was made earlier this month that it will be scrapping the programme for resettling lone youngsters from mainland Europe to the UK.

Although the Government had not committed to any specific number, campaigners and opposition figures have previously called for 3,000 children to be given sanctuary.

The letter comes days after the Home Office said that due to a lack of places for vulnerable child refugees identified by local authorities, the scheme would finish at the end of the financial year.

Despite this, the signatories of it have called the consultation with the local authorities "threadbare" and "nine months out of date", and are urging the Government to "agree to extend the programme and re-consult with councils immediately".

The letter has been signed by figures which range from authors, actors, musicians and broadcasters - these also include Coldplay, Juliet Stevenson, Gok Wan, Caroline Flack, Jude Law, Michael Morpurgo, Douglas Booth, Joely Richardson, Lily Allen, Sir Mark Rylance and Ruby Wax.

Josie Naughton, co-founder of Help Refugees, said: "The outpouring of support for the continuation of the Dubs scheme by these well-known figures and the public demonstrates that its closure is at odds with the British values that make this country great.

"We ask that the Government finds a way to do more to protect these vulnerable children fleeing war and conflict just as we did before the Second World War."

Rabbi Janet Darley, of Citizen UK's Safe Passage programme, also welcomed the "intervention by this broad range of public figures".

"Voices right across society are challenging the Government's decision to close the 'Dubs' and the lifeline it offers to the most vulnerable child refugees because we know it reflects our true national character," she said.

"Shutting the door on refugee children leaves them with a terrible choice of train tracks on the one hand and people traffickers on the other.

"Councils and communities across the country stand ready to do more. We appeal to the Government to live up to our proud history of offering sanctuary to the most vulnerable child refugees.

"Britain is better than this."

On Saturday, flanked by a group of children, local politicians and faith leaders, Lord Dubs delivered a 50,000-signature petition to the Prime Minister's Downing Street residence, accusing the Government of a "very shabby cop-out".

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has also previously said he was "saddened and shocked" at the decision.

He has insisted it is "deeply unjust" to leave the burden of caring for them on Italy and Greece, where thousands of refugees and migrants arrive from the conflict-ridden Middle East and north Africa.

A Home Office spokesman said: "We are not giving up on vulnerable children who are fleeing conflict and danger. The reality is that just in the last two weeks more than 300 refugees have arrived in the UK and around half of these were children.

"It's also a fact that more than 8,000 children found shelter, security and safety in the UK in the last year. And it's a further fact that this Government is committed to resettling up to 3,000 vulnerable children and their families from the Mena (Middle East and North Africa) region and 20,000 Syrian refugees by the end of this parliament.

"These are the actions of a Government determined to help the most vulnerable."