“This is too important to get wrong when children’s lives and futures are at risk”

When the UK Government announced that it was closing the ‘Dubs scheme’, one of the reasons given was that the scheme acted as a ‘pull’ which “encourages the people traffickers”.

The Home Affairs Select Committee heard testimony from organisations including UNICEF and Save the Children. In their urgent report they said that closing the Dubs scheme would increase the risk of child trafficking and exploitation.

At the same time the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner said safe, legal routes were an important part of protecting children and described the Dubs scheme as “an important safe, legal route for unaccompanied refugee children” which had now given sanctuary to children who had previously been exploited. He also raised a series of questions about the Government’s view.

While UK government ministers indicated that local authorities could only provide places for 350 children under the Dubs scheme, the Home Affairs Committee heard from local councils that much more capacity was available. With additional funding, up to a further 4,000 places could be made available.

Before making any changes to the Dubs scheme, the Home Affairs Committee recommends that the government:

  • consult the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner around his assessment of the likely impact of taking this step on the scale of trafficking of unaccompanied children;
  • publish the most up to date offers from local authorities to take unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, and clarify their capacity to take more of these children under the Dubs process in the 2017–18 financial year.

Yvette Cooper MP chairs the Home Affairs Committee. She said that “there is a big gap between what the Government has said, and the evidence we heard from local councils and from organisations like UNICEF who are working with child refugees.”

“This is too important to get wrong when children’s lives and futures are at risk. That’s why we are making these urgent interim recommendations now.”

She added:

“We will keep taking evidence on this so we can get the full picture. But given that the Commons may be debating amendments on this issue on Tuesday we felt it was important for Parliament to see our interim recommendations.”