Earlier this year, then Prime Minister David Cameron said that the UK government would seek to bring 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees into the country. The then PM’s statement was a response to the Dubs Amendment, a measure put forward by Lord Alfred Dubs who himself had fled from the Nazis from his homeland of Czechoslovakia. At the time of the announcement people from across the political spectrum welcomed the news but pressed for the government to do more. However, Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill has, in a written statement, said that the government will now only facilitate the resettlement of around 400 child refugees. Anyone who claims to have a compassionate bone in their body should view this as a disgrace.
This decision leaves a bad taste in the mouth. The argument against taking refugees from those on the Right is that these people haven’t been vetted heavily enough and among the desperate may be terrorists. Obviously the chances of this happening is incredible slim given the large number of NGOs and government departments involved in screening refugees, but for the sake of argument let’s accept this line of reasoning.
David Cameron’s decision to take in child refugees was, in part a response to this argument. Unaccompanied children fleeing persecution and violence aren’t likely to include terrorists, despite what the more extreme right-wing elements of the mainstream press would have you believe. Many of the children the UK is now refusing to take in are fleeing from the terrorists that right-wingers accuse them of being, and that should be unsettling to everyone irrespective of your political views.
If you are a child, some of which are primary school age, why would you resent a country that has opened its arms to you and helped improve your life? The overwhelming majority of children that age don’t have fully fleshed out views on religion and politics, and even those with cursory interest are those who have and intellectual curiosity, and thus won’t be as susceptible to the messaging of extremists. Children need protecting from some of the most chaotic scenes on this planet, and the risk is so small that reneging on this pledge is shameful.
The second reason this angers me is that I contend the government knows that this is morally indefensible. The one thing that all the press will be focused on today is the parliamentary vote on triggering Article 50. As such, if the government wanted to say anything that would be politically damaging, now would be the optimum moment. If the government thought there was nothing wrong with what they were doing, they would have not buried the story. They would have released a normal press release on a normal day, but instead they decided to wait a publish the written response in the run-up to the Article 50 vote.
To conclude, this move from the government is morally unacceptable and illustrates how the Tories are trying to suck up to the extreme right. There is no political, ethical, or rational justification for this change in policy, and this decision must be reversed. The Tories must be called out for this attempt to co-opt the far-right sentiment that is on the rise. I can’t believe that I have to even say this, but refugees must be welcomed into the UK with open arms. The government should reverse this decision and put the lives of the most vulnerable children in the world first. They should not be using lives of children to gain political advantage by appeasing populist elements of the Right.