Britain to take 3,000 refugee children, but government accused of repeating announcement

Refugees at a camp on the Greek border. More than 4.5 million have fled the Syrian civil war. Picture: Getty Images
Refugees at a camp on the Greek border. More than 4.5 million have fled the Syrian civil war. Picture: Getty Images
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The UK will take in up to 3,000 refugees, mostly vulnerable children, from the war-torn Syria region by 2020.

It has been billed as the “largest programme in the world” for children from the Middle East and North Africa and is in addition to the commitment to resettle 20,000 Syrians by the same date.

The majority of those arriving over the next four years will be children, with some accompanied by their families or carers.

However, the move failed to ease pressure on the UK Government over demands to give refuge to youngsters who are stranded alone in Europe.

Former Labour minister Yvette Cooper said: “This is the same announcement as the government made back in January and includes nothing new to help the thousands of child refugees alone in Europe who are at risk of trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse.”

Lord Dubs, who called for the relocation of 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children to the UK from Europe, welcomed the proposal but vowed to continue pressing the government for more action. He added: “You also have to wonder whether the use of the 3,000 figure is a deliberate ploy to muddy the debate.”

The government described the new scheme as the largest resettlement effort aimed specifically at children at risk from the Middle East and North Africa region.

Several hundreds will be resettled over the next year, with up to 3,000 being given refuge over the lifetime of the Parliament.

The initiative will not only target unaccompanied children but will be extended to vulnerable children at risk - such as those threatened with child labour, marriage and other forms of abuse or exploitation.

It will be open to all at-risk groups and nationalities within the region and will be reviewed after two years.

Immigration minister James Brokenshire said: “The UK Government is committed to providing life-saving support and assistance to the vulnerable children who have been unjustly impacted by this ongoing humanitarian crisis.

“We have always been clear that the vast majority of vulnerable children are better off remaining in host countries in the region so they can be reunited with surviving family members.

“However, there are exceptional circumstances in which it is in a child’s best interests to be resettled in the UK.”

He said the new scheme complements “ongoing work within Europe to assist vulnerable migrant children”.

The five-year Syrian civil war has created more than 4.5 million refugees across the region.