Tory government blocks bid to enshrine child refugee rights in Brexit agreement

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MPs have voted down proposals to enshrine protections for child refugees as part of the government’s Brexit agreement.

Following his election victory, Boris Johnson re-drafted his European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill and rowed back on the previous government’s acceptance of an amendment from Labour peer Lord Dubs to allow unaccompanied child refugees to continue to be reunited with their families in the UK after exit day. Dubs had fled from the Nazis on the Kindertransport to Britain when he was aged six.

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Clause 37 of the Bill replaces the pledge with a watered-down vow for ministers to “make a statement” on the progress of the talks once the divorce with Brussels is complete.

Labour branded the move “disgraceful”, while the SNP said it could have “tragic consequences”.

With Conservative MPs voting against the amendment, it was defeated by a majority of 96 votes on Wednesday afternoon, on the Bill’s second day of committee stage scrutiny in the Commons.

In the Commons chamber, SNP home affairs spokeswoman Joanna Cherry said:

Right now, across Europe, there are thousands of unaccompanied children living in the most desperate circumstances, many of whom are separated from their families…

And legal family reunion is a lifeline to these children who would otherwise risk their lives in dinghies or in the back of lorries in order to reach a place of safety with their family…

For the Government to seek to remove those protections now risks causing panic amongst refugee families currently separated in Europe with potentially tragic consequences.

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