While MPs were busy preparing to vote on Article 50, the Tories U-turned in a direction that would make Donald Trump proud. The government quietly scrapped its promise to help thousands of child refugees. And then, Home Secretary Amber Rudd allegedly gave an explanation as to why the decision was justified:
"UK Govt does not want to "incentivise" refugee children to come to europe." According to UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd
— Robert J Somynne (@RobertJSomynne) February 9, 2017
If Trump wasn’t certain that the UK government is his kindred spirit, he will be now.
Keep your eyes on Article 50
The government announced the U-turn while MPs were focused on the Article 50 vote. It will end the ‘Dubs’ scheme. Lord Alf Dubs, a holocaust survivor, successfully pushed for the scheme last year. His initial ‘Dubs amendment‘ compelled the government to take 3,000 vulnerable unaccompanied child refugees from Europe. But the government rejected the 3,000 figure. A later revision of it, however, without a lower or upper cap, was accepted.
Campaigners hoped that the number of refugees accepted could reach the 3,000 mark. But the government’s U-turn will cap the number of child refugees entering the UK at a fraction of that. In a statement, Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill said:
The UK can be proud of its record of helping refugee children and I can today announce, in accordance with Section 67 of the Immigration Act, that the Government will transfer the specified number of 350 children pursuant to that section, who reasonably meet the intention and spirit behind the provision.
200 refugee children are already in the UK. So the Tory government is committing to only take a further 150.
The Tories are not welcome here
Reaction to the sneaked out U-turn was swift. Human rights charities were unified in condemnation of it. Lord Dubs called it “bitterly disappointing”, and plans to challenge it. Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper called the move “shabby”. Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, meanwhile, branded it “a betrayal of British values”. And Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said:
Turning our backs on some of the most vulnerable people on earth is shameful but sadly expected by the Conservatives https://t.co/0hwotXfr0E
— Jeremy Corbyn MP (@jeremycorbyn) February 8, 2017
In fact, many people spoke out against the decision:
— Harry Leslie Smith (@Harryslaststand) February 8, 2017
Shameful. Breaches spirit and letter of 'Dubs Amendment', international agreements. https://t.co/ibZ25HxwWh
— Diane Abbott MP (@HackneyAbbott) February 8, 2017
Refugees are made in the image of God. I'm shocked and saddened by the Government's decision on the Dubs Amendment. My full statement: pic.twitter.com/UonIZJS8bE
— Justin Welby ن (@JustinWelby) February 9, 2017
Amber Rudd in particular attracted criticism for her comment that accepting refugees ‘incentivised’ children to travel to Europe:
"Amber Rudd" £8,000,000,000 to revamp Westminster yet not a penny to be found for children refugees,there is a sickness in the Tory party.
— Scot Finlayson (@ScotFinlayson) February 9, 2017
The lies Amber Rudd must have to tell herself on a daily basis just to function. Amazing.
— Alex Frost (@alexwfrost) February 9, 2017
Amber Rudd said her Government didn't want to incentivies these children to come here . Well stop dropping incentives on their country
— Ann Nonny Mouse (@ann_nonny) February 9, 2017
MPs confronted Rudd over the position change and its similarity to Trump’s policy on refugees. Wolverhampton South East MP Pat McFadden queried whether the UK wanted to “be aligned” with a “Britain first, America first, France first” sentiment. SNP Home Affairs Spokesperson Joanna Cherry, meanwhile, asked: “is this what comes of cosying up to President Trump?”
Rudd claimed she did “not recognise the comparison” and told MPs the government is “not saying we are closing the door”. But that appears to be exactly what the government is doing for every child refugee not included in the 350 grouping.
The government is grateful for a refugee and migrant population that it can blame its underfunding of public services on. But it’s shamefully ungenerous when those people need help. Furthermore, in the case of any refugee fleeing from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, the now-withdrawn help is in part needed because of the UK’s actions. Turning our back on those whose struggles we played a part in is truly callous.
And it’s not necessary either. Because communities have largely welcomed the child refugees who have already arrived in the UK. When faced with vulnerability, most people want to help. Others, of course, may be concerned that public services can’t bear the weight of an increased population. But they could if the Tories funded those services properly.
As one of the wealthiest nations in the world, the UK is able to assist. Not doing so is a choice. And it’s one that makes raising correlations with Trump entirely justifiable.
– Take action to help with the Refugees Welcome campaign.
– Write to your MP to tell them what you think.