Just three Tory MPs backed a failed move this afternoon to keep the Dubs scheme open in the UK. Up to thirty Conservative MPs had been expected to rebel against the government, but many abstained instead and Tory backbencher Heidi Allen’s amendment was lost by 287 votes to 267.
The BBC report that only three Tory MPs voted in favour of the amendment: Heidi Allen, Tania Mathias and cabinet minister Nicky Morgan.
They were joined by 195 Labour MPs, 47 SNP, and nine Liberal Democrats, among others. A total of 282 Tory MPs voted against.
The amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill would have required councils in England to report back to ministers at least once a year on their capacity to provide safeguarding and welfare services to children, including refugees from abroad. One of the reasons stage by the UK government for closing the Dubs scheme after just 350 unaccompanied child refugees have been brought to the UK was the insistence that councils do not have sufficient capacity to take the 3,000 child refugees originally expected.
“Hugely disappointing” was how UNICEF described today’s vote. Their deputy executive director Lily Caprani said:
“Without legal schemes to relocate unaccompanied refugee children, there’s an ongoing risk of children being pushed into the dangerous path of smugglers and traffickers. This crisis is not going away. This country must not turn away from doing its bit to help the most vulnerable.”
Oxfam’s humanitarian policy advisor Josephine Liebl urged the Home Secretary “to keep this route open and to consider other measures to allow children to join their relatives in the UK and reunite families torn apart by violence”.
“The Government appears willing to decide the fates of child refugees based on guesswork instead of evidence from the councils responsible for accommodating them. Rather than putting in place policies that are in line with the Government’s ambition to be a truly Global Britain, it is closing the door on child refugees who have fled terrible violence.”
Lord Dubs who arrived in Britain as a refugee was disappointed but remained hopeful, saying: “the campaign isn’t over, our better nature will surely carry the day”.
Labour MP Yvette Cooper chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee which yesterday issued an urgent report. She voiced her deep disappointment at the result, saying that it was “completely wrong” to close the Dubs scheme after just six months.
A government spokesperson said that “the UK’s doors will remain open to all those who need our protection” and asked local authorities to join the National Transfer Scheme. “We have a proud history of providing sanctuary – and local authorities will continue to play a vital role.”