Global Independent Analytics

UK bows to pressure, will accept Syrian children from Europe

Britain’s government bowed to pressure Wednesday and agreed to take in some unaccompanied children from Syria who have made their way to Europe

BBC reports: The government agreed in January to take some lone child refugees directly from North Africa and the Middle East - but rejected calls to accept 3,000 children who had made it to Europe because it did not want to encourage others to make the "lethal" journey.

Now, in a change of heart, children registered in Greece, Italy or France before 20 March - when the EU struck its refugee deal with Turkey - will be eligible for resettlement in the UK. The government said the retrospective nature of the scheme would avoid creating a "perverse incentive" for families to entrust their children to people traffickers. It would mean the UK can focus on the "most vulnerable children already in Europe without encouraging more to make the journey," Downing Street said.

Mr. Cameron admitted that he accepted a revised amendment to the Immigration Bill from Labour peer Lord Dubs. "I am also talking to Save the Children to see what we can do more, particularly about children who came here before the EU-Turkey deal was signed. 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."

Although the pledge to accept 3,000 children, the government assumed that the final number will depend on what councils can cope with. Local authorities are also expected to contribute their might to helping the unaccompanied children.

Save the Children said Mr. Cameron had "offered a lifeline to these vulnerable children," adding: "This announcement echoes Britain's proud history of providing safety at times of great crisis and we want to thank the members of parliament who have led the way in championing this cause, as well as the British public who have opened their hearts to refugee children."

In a letter to David Cameron, Sir Erich Reich, chairman of Kindertransport-Association of Jewish Refugees, had called on the PM to do more to help "the most vulnerable victims" of the Syrian conflict.

He said it was "incumbent on us to provide sanctuary to those in need."

Mr. Cameron rejected comparisons with the "Kindertransport" scheme that helped Jewish children escape from the Nazis, at Prime Minister's Questions.

"To say that the Kindertransport is taking children today from France or Germany or Italy, safe countries that are democracies, I think that is an insult to those countries," he told MPs.

But he added: "We're going to go round the local authorities and see what more we can do, but let's stick to the principle we should not be taking in new arrivals to Europe."

 

By Stefan Paraber for GIA.

EXPERT OPINION

Joshua Tartakovsky

Only an outright racist or Aryan purist would oppose the adoption of children. Children are likely to integrate very quickly into the host culture and are fast language learners. If given the right families and a good environment, they will hopefully grow to be psychologically healthy and lead successful lives. While comparisons with Kindertransport of 1938 are a bit simplistic, it is nevertheless fascinating that the UK has a noble history of accepting needy children during times of wars and chaos. 

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