David Cameron has climbed down on his refusal to take children from European camps and said the government is holding talks withcharity Save the Children about what more Britain an do to help unaccompanied child refugees from Syria.
The Prime Minister said the government would now “go round the local authorities and see what more we can do” but added: “Let’s stick to the principle that we should not be taking new arrivals from Europe.”
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday Mr Cameron firmly rejected comparisons between the position of children who had reached Europe with those who came to Britain in the 1930s from Nazi-occupied Europe – the Kindertransports.
He said: “What I don’t want us to do is to take steps that will encourage people to make this dangerous journey because otherwise our actions, however well-meaning they will be, could result in more people dying than more people getting a good life.”
No timetable is yet in place for the arrival of the children, but Mr Cameron said he hoped it would be this year.
Labour peer Lord Dubs – a former child refugee who fled the Nazis and who tabled the Lords amendment pushing the government to act – welcomed the news, saying it would help ease the plight of some of the unaccompanied child refugees in Europe.
Mr Cameron’s intervention came as rebel Conservative MPs – who had threatened to defeat the government if it tried to overturn the Lords amendment – were preparing to meet immigration minister James Brokenshire to discuss the issue.
Professor David Southall, trustee and honorary medical director of the Scotland-based international charity Maternal and Child Health Advocacy International, which called on Westminster to reconsider, said: “Children are easily forgotten in this crisis: at least 95,000 child refugees are now on their own in Europe.
“They are sleeping rough and in makeshift camps, vulnerable to abuse and to trafficking into modern slavery.”