Refugee Children Vote

Thank you for your email and the genuine concern that you show for refugee children, please know that I share your concern and wish to set the record straight regarding the willingness of myself and other MPs to welcome unaccompanied children into the UK.

The vote you refer to would have led to a situation where children brought into the UK would not have been safe. In the Spring of last year, MPs were asked to support a motion to accept 3,000 unaccompanied children into the UK immediately (known as the Dubs Amendment). No work had been done to identify families that they could live with or communities that could provide the support and the integration needed. Once the Government had discussed this challenge with local authorities (who are ultimately the only ones able to provide the support needed by these unaccompanied children) I was able to vote in favour of the Dubs Amendment regarding the UK welcoming these minors. This vote took place just a week after the previous Dubs Amendment did not succeed.

In regards to the cancelling of the Dubs Amendment, please let me clarify this only relates to the children currently in mainland Europe not the UN Refugee camps. The Government were obliged by the Immigration Act to put a specific number on how many children the UK would take based on a consultation with local authorities about their capacity.

The Secretary of State explained to the House last Wednesday that because of the closure of the Calais camp, the Dubs Amendment regarding child refugees from mainland Europe is unhelpful (as refugees were not accepting help in the EU as they hoped to come to the UK). The child refugees on mainland Europe are being processed and cared for by the countries they are in. Traditional applications from asylum seekers continue and I would like to be clear that child refugees with family in the UK will still be processed and granted access to the UK. The UK will continue to take children under the vulnerable person’s scheme. It is also the case that the UK funds specific work in Italy and Greece to support and process refugees including supporting EU countries financially. By the end of 2016, the UK had resettled 8,000 child refugees in the UK. The Government has always been clear that our help for people in the conflict areas in the Middle East is our priority. After the United States, we remain the second most active nation, in regards to funds and practical help.

You may wish to contact Cornwall Council as the Government rely on the local authorities to provide the practical assistance to resettle these children and so far our local authority has resisted every request to take unaccompanied children. The Government can only respond to this challenge in collaboration with councils and local communities.

I recently met with Church groups from West Cornwall and raised this issue with them.  The Government relies heavily on Community Sponsorship Schemes, which have been designed to ensure that appropriate and adequate support is available to refugees. If you are involved in any such schemes in the constituency, please do let me know how I can support you.

You may be aware that I supported Clause 14 (regarding the resettlement of child refugees in the UK), proposed by Heidi Allen MP in Parliament last week. The following link sets out what progress was made in this regard:

Thank you once again for contacting me, please do not hesitate to get in contact with me if you require any further information.

Kind regards,

Derek Thomas MP

For St Ives, West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.