The church leaders call on the Government to ‘open the door again to refugee children’ and offer their help in resettling them.
No less than 220 church leaders from across the UK have signed a petition opposing the Government’s decision to stop a resettlement programme for child refugees.
The Home Office’s low-key announcement last Wednesday said the scheme to resettle unaccompanied child refugees under Lord Dubs’ amendment to the 2016 immigration bill would stop at the end of March.
The Immigration minister Robert Goodwill said 200 children had arrived so far and another 150 would follow before the end of March. But he added that no further places were available with local authorities.
The petition, which this afternoon had gained 228 signatures, was coordinated by the Christian charity Home for Good.
The petition states that the number who are coming in ‘is far smaller than what is desired’ and ‘fits neither the spirit nor the intention behind the transfer scheme and leaves many vulnerable unaccompanied children still in Europe in unsuitable conditions’.
It continues: ‘There are challenges to bringing in more children and teenagers, but there is a willingness from the public to offer help and find solutions to these challenges. Home for Good has had a huge response from the general public with over 13,500 wanting to find out how to start the process to be assessed to foster asylum seeking children. We believe there is capacity in the UK – but the current national and local systems are not in place to access this. We therefore call on the Government to open the door again to refugee children and engage with discussions about how more can be done for them.
As leaders we offer to assist the Government in making use of civil society’s willingness to help local authorities provide care for these children.’
Signatories include Nicky Gumbel, the vicar of the popular evangelical church in London, Holy Trinity Brompton, Steve Clifford, the General Director of the Evangelical Alliance, Lynn Green, the General Secretary of the Baptist Union and Alan Donaldson, the General Director of the Baptist Union of Scotland.
Last week, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby joined other bishops in calling on ministers to reverse their decision.
The Dubs scheme made provision for unaccompanied asylum seeking children who are in transit in Europe to be brought into the UK.
Lord Dubs had originally asked for 3,000 children to be accepted – a calculated ‘fair share’ for Britain given the number of unaccompanied refugee children in Europe. The government agreed to welcome an unspecified number.
In a video message posted on Twitter, Home for Good’s founder and director Krish Kandiah said: ‘I’m angry – I’m angry about where the government stands on refugee children…The UK has been putting some spurious logic about why we shouldn’t help them. One argument is, if we help them that will encourage more children to come: I think that is completely false.
‘It’s like coming across a young child in the street covered in blood because they’ve hurt themselves on a barbed wire fence and saying, well we obviously can’t help that child because that would be a pull factor to encourage more children to hurt themselves on barbed wire fences. No, you need to help a child in need right now, and turning your back on them is no answer.