Tuesday, 26 April 2016 05:16

SNP in final push for child refugee amendment

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 The Scottish National Party will today (Monday) make its final push to secure an amendment to the Immigration Bill that would require the UK government to accept at least 3000 of the unaccompanied child refugees in Europe.

 The UK government has so far failed to make any clear or firm commitment to resettle its fair share of these vulnerable children, but it is hoped that enough backbench Tory MPs could join with SNP and other opposition parties to support the amendment tonight.
 The SNP has called for greater resettlement since the start of crisis and the SNP Scottish Government has led the way in the UK on practical support for refugees - launching Scotland’s refugee taskforce with £1million of funding, providing £375,000 in aid to support humanitarian activity in southern Europe, and ensuring Scotland has taken in more than 400 of the 1,300 refugees given a safe haven in the UK under the Syrian Resettlement Programme.

 During the Easter recess the SNP Justice and Home Affairs team undertook a four-day witness bearing visit to the refugee camps at Calais and Grand-Synthe. The team were joined by a delegation of refugee and human rights experts to volunteer and bear witness to the conditions and issues facing refugees in the camps

 To date the UK government has only offered to resettle up to 23,000 refugees in total by 2020, with no clear commitment on unaccompanied child refugees in Europe. The SNP says that this does not go anywhere near far enough given the huge scale of the crisis. UNHCR estimates that over 450,000 additional places will be needed internationally before the end of 2018 to address the needs of the most vulnerable refugees and to relieve pressure on Syria's neighbours.
 Commenting, Stuart McDonald MP, SNP spokesperson on Immigration, Asylum and Border Control said:
 “Today we have an important opportunity to force the UK government to show the leadership that has been lacking by accepting our fair share of the thousands of unaccompanied child refugees that are already in Europe.
 “The UK government has so far failed to provide a fair share of these vulnerable children with the protection and sanctuary they need and deserve. As a result thousands of child refugees continue to struggle alone and at risk of trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse – with an estimated 10,000 children disappearing in Europe in 2015 alone, including those who have died trying to get to the UK.  
 “We would never allow this to happen to own our children, and we cannot now turn our backs on our moral and legal obligations to refugee children either.
 “SNP MPs recognise that this isn’t someone else’s problem, it is all of Europe’s problem, including our problem. Scotland stands ready to continue to play its part and that’s why we will be backing the amendment tonight and call on the UK government and MPs of every party to do the same.”
 Commenting on the Immigration Bill and its wider amendments, Stuart McDonald MP said:
 “The SNP want to see a system of sensible, managed migration that prevents exploitation and makes the most of the huge economic and social benefits that migrants bring to the UK and Scotland, but the Tory Immigration Bill makes no serious attempt to deliver that.
 “The Immigration Bill is flawed, divisive, and ultimately bad for Scotland, as well as the rest of the UK. In a rushed and ham-fisted drive to reduce immigration – at any cost – the Tory government is pushing through unhelpful targets and disproportionate measures without consideration for the damage they that will do to the economy and society.
 “The Bill is packed with nasty and pernicious proposals but with today's debate we have the opportunity not only to act on child refugees but also to support a ban on the detention of pregnant women, a time limit on immigration detention, and allow asylum seekers to work if the UK government fails to assess their case within six months.”
 A spokesperson for Save the Children said:

 “The plight of these children is what motivated Lord Dubs, himself a child refugee of the Kindertransport, to push the government as part of the Immigration Bill to offer a new home in the UK to 3,000 unaccompanied children who have fled war and are already in Europe. Parliament will vote on the bill today and it represents a crucial opportunity to ensure that the UK does not turn its back on these vulnerable children. We hope the UK will stand with refugee children and put into law our call to relocate 3,000 unaccompanied children from Europe.”

 Rachel Robinson, Policy Officer for Liberty, said:
 “This Government’s law-making is increasingly characterised by discriminatory, divisive and counter-productive powers that ignore clear evidence in a bid to score political points. Today MPs have a chance to listen to the evidence, the experts and the House of Lords and bring an ounce of compassion to this otherwise poisonous Bill."