The Tory government has slammed the door shut on unaccompanied child refugees trying to make it to safety in Britain.
Immigration minister Chris Philp said Britain would shut legal routes to Britain who have reached other European countries.
An amendment by Labour peer Alf Dubs forced the Tory government to commit to taking some unaccompanied child refugees in May 2016. It came after widespread support for refugees at the height of the crisis in the Mediterranean, but the Tories fought to regain the intuitive ever since.
The Dubs Amendment allowed in some child refugees, who were trapped at Britain’s border in Calais. It was initially supposed to offer settlement to 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees.
But it was capped at 480 places and further limited to 350.
The refugee charity Choose Love said Britain had “turned its back on lone refugee children” after Philp’s statement. “A child’s right to safety should never be up for debate,” it said.
By shutting legal routes, the Tories will force vulnerable children into the hands of people smugglers.
Philp confirmed that only unaccompanied children with relatives in Britain will now be permitted entry.
He further claimed that the government is prioritising resettling vulnerable refugees from dangerous conflict zones. Yet Britain’s resettlement process, which transfers refugees from conflict zones to Britain, is currently on hold due to the pandemic with no word when it will restart.
The Tories claimed that they couldn't find local authorities to take in child refugees. But refugee charity Safe Passage said that local councils were not at capacity and at least 25 had pledged over 1,400 places for child refugees.
Beth Gardiner-Smith, chief executive of Safe Passage International, described the desperate situation facing child refugees who have already made it to Europe. “Children alone in Europe are sleeping rough in the snow, in derelict buildings and in tents in overcrowded camps,” she said.
Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) campaigned alongside Lord Dubs to build solidarity with refugees.
Tower Hamlets SUTR co-convenor Sheila McGregor slammed the callous move. "Lord Dubs fought to get child refugees into this country, but that has been blocked by this government,” she told Socialist Worker.
Sheila argued it was another step to make Britain's racist immigration system more brutal, pointing to the Tories’ drive to deport more people on charter flights. “We in Tower Hamlets are fighting to get two sons their father back after he was deported to Jamaica in February last year,” she said.
It will take a mass movement against racism to push back the Tories’ assault on migrants' and refugees' rights.