David Cameron announces refugee u-turn after Kindertransport chair’s pressure


David Cameron has said the government will not stand in the way of an amendment calling for Britain to take in unaccompanied refugee children who have already arrived in Europe.

Former Kindertransport refugee Lord Dubs had originally had his amendment to the immigration bill that would have seen the UK accept 3,000 child refugees rejected in a vote in the House of Commons last month.

MPs voted against the proposals to accept 3,000 children in a move similar to the kindertransport by 294 to 276.
But after criticism, the Prime Minister said he would accept the amendment now that it no longer included the figure of 3,000 children that it had originally asked for.

At Prime Minister’s Question Time Mr Cameron told MPs: “It won’t be necessary to send the Dubs amendment back, it doesn’t mention a number of people. We are going to speak to local authorities to see what we can do.”

Mr Cameron also said the government would “speed up” the process of taking child migrants already in Europe who have a direct family connection with someone in the UK.

He added: “We are talking to Save The Children to see what we can do to help children who came before the EU-Turkey agreement was signed.”

The reversal comes after Sir Erich Reich, Association of Jewish Refugees chairman, called on Mr Cameron to do more to “help some of the most vulnerable victims” of the refugee crisis.

A former Kinder, Sir Erich urged him to “demonstrate compassion” and said that he had learned of the original rejection of resettlement proposals “with great sadness”.

In a letter to Mr Cameron, he wrote: “I strongly urge you and your colleagues to reconsider how we can intervene to help some of the most vulnerable victims of an internecine conflict that has claimed the lives of thousands of people and displaced millions.

“The echoes of the past haunt many of my fellow Kinder and I whose fate similarly rested with members of the British parliament.

“I feel it is incumbent on us to once again demonstrate our compassion and human-kindness to provide sanctuary to those in need.”

Lord Dubs welcomed the u-turn and said he hoped “the government would be generous” when it came to the number of child refugees it would take from Europe.

He took issue with Mr Cameron, who said it was wrong to compare the Kindertransport with helping refugee children in Europe, because the children were already in “safe countries.”

Lord Dubs told Sky News: “The children might not be facing Nazi gas chambers and that is true, but they are alone and they are in dangerous conditions. They face being dragged into prostitution criminality and drugs and they need our help.”

A separate letter to the Prime Minister calling on him to support Lord Dubs’ amendment to the Immigration Bill was signed by 40 rabbis.

Representing United, Reform, Masorti and Liberal congregations from across the UK, they joined more than 325 members of the Jewish community who also signed the letter, commissioned by the Jewish Council for Racial Equality.

It read: “Many of us in the Jewish community are shocked by the failure of the government to act now and offer a lifeline to a small proportion of the 95,000 unaccompanied children currently in Europe.”

Dr Edie Friedman, Jcore executive director, said: “We welcome the fact that the government is moving in a positive direction in accepting the Dubs amendment.

“Accepting vulnerable child refugees is an act that shows Britain at its best. It is also important that the government now does more to influence positive attitudes towards refugees and asylum seekers. We look forward to hearing further details of the government’s proposals.”

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive