The Government has been criticised by Jewish groups for a “shameful” decision to strip out protections for lone child refugees from flagship immigration legislation.
MPs voted 327 votes to 264 – majority 63 – to remove an amendment made by peers which would have required the Government to ensure unaccompanied children in the EU continue to be relocated with close relatives in the UK.
The amendment to continue existing arrangements had been successfully moved in the House of Lords by refugee campaigner and Labour peer Lord Dubs, who fled the Nazis as a child on the Kindertransport.
Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl, who urged MPs to back the amendment ahead of the vote, said: “We are disappointed at the removal of child refugee protections from the Immigration Bill. As a community where many of us, our parents or grandparents came to this country as refugees, we have great sympathy with their plight.”
We will work with Lord Dubs and parliamentarians across the political spectrum to find a positive means of Britain upholding its proud tradition of welcome to the vulnerable.”
Before the vote on Monday, the Board told The Independent, British Jews “will always be grateful for this country’s compassion in accepting thousands of parents and grandparents as refugees” before the Holocaust, saying the Kindertransport rescue was “the first minute of Britain’s finest hour.”
The move was also condemned by Dr Edie Friedman, Executive Director of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE), who said the removal “is shameful and very worrying.”
We need absolute clarity and transparency, not vague words of goodwill. Protection for vulnerable children and young people must be built into the law. Failure to do so means that many will be denied their right to a secure future.”
The asylum system must have built into it safe and legal routes for these young people to be able to come to Britain, with family reunion at the very heart of the bill.”
The division list showed six Conservative MPs rebelled to try and keep the measure in the Bill, including former ministers David Davis and Tim Loughton.
The Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill is part of the move towards the Government’s new points-based immigration system, to be introduced from 2021, that will end EU freedom-of-movement rules in the UK.
MPs also disagreed with Lords amendment three, to give EU children in care and care leavers automatic and indefinite leave to remain, by 330 votes to 262 – majority 68.
Speaking during the debate, Conservative former cabinet minister Karen Bradley said it is “absolutely vital” to have safe and legal passages to the UK post-Brexit.
Meanwhile, Tory former minister, Tim Loughton added: “We need a Dubs 2 and we need a family reunion scheme regardless of Brexit.
“We need it, we have a great tradition of saving these children, if we don’t have it in this Bill come January 1 we will have no safe and legal route for very, very vulnerable children.”
Home Office minister Kevin Foster earlier said it “does not make sense” to have separate provisions for child refugees in EU member states compared with those in the rest of the world.
MPs also rejected Lords amendments, to assess the end of freedom of movement on the social care sector, to give EU citizens granted permission to live in the UK physical evidence of their migration status, and to impose a 28-day limit on immigration detention for European Economic Area and Swiss nationals.
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