Why I’m angry that the Government has abandoned its commitments to child refugees

On Friday night I was on my way home from a wonderfully festive day with amazing colleagues who spend huge amounts of time and energy helping vulnerable people solve their problems. I was feeling at peace with the world. Then I made the mistake of logging onto twitter and I saw some news that changed my mood completely.

Our new government had sneaked some amendments into their revised version of the Brexit withdrawal bill. Despite repeated promises to the contrary Boris Johnson has dropped the government’s commitments to work to reunite unaccompanied refugee children in Europe with their families here in the UK. 

Suddenly I found myself both blood boilingly angry and on the verge of tears. A year and half ago I spent three weeks volunteering with an educational charity in the refugee “camps” of Northern France. Whilst there I met numerous unaccompanied teenagers, some as young as twelve and thirteen. They had all experienced harrowing journeys to get that far often being exposed to traffickers, police violence and unimaginable destitution. These were our continent’s most vulnerable children; they had witnessed things that no one should ever see, especially as a child. They were alone in the world and facing hostile state authorities and abuse on all sides. We volunteers had one tool in our arsenal to get those children to safety quickly; the Dubs protections. 

Now in one of their first acts with a majority, this rotten government has decided to gut those protections. I think this goes to the heart of the question of what sort of society to do we want to be. Do we want to be a nation that turns a blind eye and closes the door to abused vulnerable children in order to sate tabloid racism? Or do we in fact want to be a country that welcomes these kids with open arms and stands strong that no child should be left in absolute destitution?

We have a proud tradition in this country stretching back to the Kindertransport of World War Two in saying no child should be left vulnerable to the ravages of war. For this government to quietly abandon that commitment is an abomination. There is something morally corrupt about turning a blind eye to these children, that I thought even Johnson’s government wouldn’t stoop so low. More than anything else that this Prime Minister has said or done throughout his career, this decision should give us the impetus to put our all into fighting this government. These children deserve nothing less. 

* Euan Davidson is Councillor for Corstorphine/Murrayfield in Edinburgh. He is the former PPC for Aberdeen North and East Lothian and a previous President of the Scottish Young Liberals.

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  • Christopher Curtis 23rd Dec '19 - 9:26am

    You are right, of course, but we’ll all have to come to terms with the reality that Johnson has embraced the nastiness that can run at the heart of the Tory tribe, and brought on board lots of new voters as a result.
    No-one voted for Johnson thinking he was honest, decent, responsible and thoughtful: quite the opposite. Many people looking forward to Big Ben on 31 January, blue passports etc. are also, sadly, looking forward to “keeping them out”, even if “they” are innocent and very vulnerable children.
    As so often in the past, people who want to do the right thing will have to stand up against the government and “prevailing wisdom”. That’s actually what people have had to do at many points in our history. Letting nastiness win is not an option, but the fight is going to be different now.

  • ………………The prime minister, Boris Johnson, faced criticism after he told parliament he had dropped a promise to replace the EU law that allows child refugees stranded in Europe to reunite with family members in the UK after Brexit………….

    This not just wrong; it is ‘spitefully wrong’. There can be no rational, practical reason for preventing families from coming together in a safe country; one can only assume that it is a political decision made to appease the extreme ‘no immigrants’ wing of his party.

    After the Windrush scandal we were assured that ‘compassion had been restored’ in home office decisions; it seems that, for one party at least, it hasn’t.

  • Innocent Bystander 23rd Dec '19 - 10:06am

    But why aren’t they being looked after by France (or any of the half dozen European countries they must have passed through)?

  • You have every right to be angry but I am afraid it is what I would expect from the present government and we must stick together and try to expose every nasty and retrograde policy they enact over the coming years as Ed Davey has done today with his attack on the sale of one our major arms manufacturers to a US private equity company.

  • Innocent Bystander I assume you missed this bit of the article
    “Despite repeated promises to the contrary Boris Johnson has dropped the government’s commitments to work to reunite unaccompanied refugee children in Europe with their families here in the UK. ”

    I assume you don’t think it would be a good idea to deport their familes to join them. I just hope none of “our little villagers ” pick up on that idea or Depeffle will probably inplement it to make them feel more secure in their little villages.

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Dec '19 - 11:43am

    Euan Davidson “on the verge of tears”
    In IND once my reaction was once “and the pig got up and slowly walked away”
    because external computer consultants were struggling to understand policy reserved for the client, namely the Home Office.
    The Human Rights Act is still in force. The UK has expert lawyers, some of whom will act for free (pro bono publico). Some of them would be willing to bring a test case which can be relied on by others. Such work can help their careers.
    Innocent Bystander “looked after by France” ? You have a point there, often said, but the consequence is that family unity should be achieved by sending family members from the safety of the UK to France (or wherever).
    I had a case where a husband and wife had travelled separately, one arriving in Sweden, the other in the UK. Either country could have taken responsibility, one must. I put the case up for decision and a senior officer decided that we should take them both although Sweden had not refused and the case did not reach Ministers or lawyers. She has since retired.
    I had a colleague in IND whose role was to establish that France was then “a safe country” for asylum cases. He won in court and used the court’s decision to bring similar cases about other neighbouring countries.
    “they must have passed through” this depends on the circumstances of the individual case, please consider Africans who say they have passed through Libya and crossed the Mediterranean into Italy or Greece (or Spain?)

  • Windrush in a Liberal world should have been a disaster for the governing party but the Tory vote went up in the polls. Democracy equals majority rule so not sure how you would square that circle if the majority don’t share LibDem ideals??

  • There are a significant number of voters who will cheer this on. Expect more such announcements it distracts them for their declining living environment and standards. Remember for many ” Tis never their fault and some nasty furrins has robbed them of their lottery ticket”. As a friend once said to me ” It’s pork mate you can’t teach it you can only cure it” and reality will cure quite a lot of delusion but not in a touchy feely happy clappy way.

  • Mike MacSween 23rd Dec '19 - 1:31pm

    Innocent Bystander 23rd Dec ’19 – 10:06am
    “But why aren’t they being looked after by France (or any of the half dozen European countries they must have passed through)?”

    It’s about reuniting refugee children with their relatives. Not just about who “looks after” them.

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Dec '19 - 2:16pm

    Euan Davidson
    Before the Human Rights Act came into force (1/10/2000) there were benefits for recognised refugees in the UK, including family reunion under the 1951 UN Convention.
    Accurate use of language is essential.
    Suppose a drought in Chad caused a failure of harvests and consequential loss of food and water. Chadians would be likely to cross a state boundary from Chad into Libya. Libya is not a safe country, so the migrants cannot be expected to claim asylum in Libya, nor would Libya be expected to accept them on return.
    If the Chadian migrants succeed in crossing the Mediterranean and entering France they might claim asylum. France is a safe country for refugees, but they would be likely to be refused asylum because they have not been persecuted for a Convention reason.
    They may also have pessimistic, informal, contacts who advise them not to apply.
    In the UK an application for asylum would be deemed to include an application under the Human Rights Act, (which is what they should do anyway) because a British judge decided that the Appellate authority would have too much difficulty trying to decide both simultaneously (and, by inference, so would the initial decision maker/s)
    Richard Attenborough (late brother of David) wrote that their father had asked for their permission to accept some children (from memory two) from the process that the then UK government had kindly allowed, although the parents would remain in Nazi Germany at risk of persecution.

  • Innocent Bystander 23rd Dec ’19 – 10:06am……………But why aren’t they being looked after by France (or any of the half dozen European countries they must have passed through)?…
    Because their family members are already in the UK.

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Dec '19 - 8:57pm

    Innocent Bystander 23rd Dec ’19
    Some arrive by air. If children are to be interviewed at all the interviewer must have been selected as exceptionally sensitive.

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