People are saying that this administrative error means that the government can take even more children.
After months of controversy surrounding the UK’s decision to end the Dubs Scheme, a scheme that was supposed to allow for 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees living in camps throughout Europe, the country has announced that it would be taking in an additional 130 children after an “administrative error.”
The scheme was part of an amendment to immigration legislation last year after submitting to pressure from veteran British politician Lord Alf Dubs, who was a child refugee at age 6 in the UK after fleeing Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. Despite tons of support for the scheme, which charities helping refugees in Europe estimated would help 3,000 children, Robert Goodwill, immigration minister, announced earlier this year that they would be ending the scheme after having only helped 200 children with another 150 expected to be taken in before the official end.
The decision faced backlash, with online petitions and articles slamming politicians that backed the decision for their lack of heart and pointing out that other local councils had said that they could still accept more children. Although the government strongly resisted these claims, Goodwill announced that the government would, in fact, be able to take in more children.
“The Government has very recently become aware that, due to an administrative error as part of collating the figures, one region pledged 130 places which were not accounted for in setting the specified number,” he said in a statement.
Proponents of the scheme have called this backpedaling “embarrassing” for the government after such a strong resistance to take in more than the 350. Politicians like Home secretary Amber Rudd responded to the initial backlash with outrage, claiming that the scheme was a “magnet for people traffickers” because it encouraged children to travel dangerously to Europe and fall prey to traffickers on their journey.
While it’s great that 130 more children will be able to seek refuge in the UK because of this announcement, organizations have pointed out that this also reveals more trouble beneath the surface. Not only does it degrade the lives of these children to mere numbers, but it’s also evidence of the lack of care used to handle the closing of the scheme in the first place. As Rabbi Janet Darley from Safe Passage, an organization working to help lone refugee children, told The Guardian,
“If 130 places can be missed due to an administrative error, and many more councils have since come forward and pledged extra spaces, this clearly demonstrates the need to reconsult with councils on capacity and reopen the Dubs scheme so more children can in future benefit.”
Rather than closing the scheme at just 480 children, it should be reopened and the government should be constantly checking with local municipalities to see if they can handle more children. As far as Darley has heard, the last time the local authorities were consulted was June 2016. Since then, dozens more spaces could have opened up for children in need. Yvette Cooper, chair of the Commons home affairs select committee, said,
“Time and again the select committee and local councils across the country told the Home Office that there were more places available, but they wouldn’t budge and they failed to follow up. Surely on something as important as this, when children are at risk of trafficking and prostitution, they would have checked the numbers were right.”
Since the decision to close the scheme, hundreds of children have been made homeless by disasters in nearby French camps, specifically the Dunkirk fire that left many unaccounted for, and countless have gone missing as they have fallen victim to trafficking. Though the 130 is welcomed, local government still wants the federal government to take in more children.