The 80-seat majority Tory government led by Boris Johnson wants to “tear up” protections for child refugees, Labour’s Keir Starmer has argued ahead of the fresh Brexit vote on Friday.
Labour has found that the Prime Minister’s new Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which sets out plans for the UK’s exit from the EU, has scrapped a previous commitment to protect child refugees after Brexit.
The explanatory notes of the Bill observe that the obligation to negotiate an agreement that “an unaccompanied child who has made a claim for international protection in a member state can come to the UK to join a relative” has been dropped.
Johnson has replaced the obligation, which was pushed for and celebrated by Lord Alf Dubs and the wider Labour Party as well as refugee charities, with a requirement only to make a statement to parliament.
Commenting on the news, Keir Starmer, Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary said: “During the last parliament, Labour’s Alf Dubs led the campaign to protect child refugees post-Brexit. The Tories now want to tear up those protections.
“As we leave the European Union, we cannot abandon our values of human rights and internationalism. Labour must continue to stand up for the most vulnerable people in the world.”
Under current EU law, the Dublin III regulation establishes the legal basis for establishing the criteria and mechanism to determine which member state has responsibility for considering an asylum application.
The priority under the Dublin procedure is to place unaccompanied children in a member state in which a member of their family is already living.
There were 700 requests through Greek authorities in the first six months of 2019 alone for the UK to take charge of an asylum seeker under the Dublin III regulation.
According to Unicef, thousands of unaccompanied children have arrived in different countries across Europe. There were an estimated 32,000 children present in Greece by the end of June 2019 alone.
Italy had registered 7,272 unaccompanied children in different types of accommodation by June, while in Spain 13,400 unaccompanied and separated refugee and migrant children were accommodated in government-run reception centres.