Hilary Benn - Member of Parliament for Leeds Central
I have been contacted by constituents about the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and unaccompanied child refugees.
We must meet our obligations under the Dublin regulation to reunite refugees with family members in the UK and Brexit must not lead to a loss of rights for refugees.
I supported Lord Dubs’ amendment to the Withdrawal Bill which sought to preserve existing rights; allowing those seeking asylum, including unaccompanied minors, to join a family member in the UK. This amendment was passed by the House of Lords in April but in the Commons the Government rejected it and instead brought forward its own alternative.
This alternative amendment sets out that the Government must seek to negotiate an agreement with the EU to allow unaccompanied child asylum seekers to come to the UK to join a relative, where it would be in the child’s best interests to do so. The Government has subsequently accepted changes to expand its amendment by allowing aunts and uncles as qualifying relatives able to sponsor, as well as relatives under 18. These revised proposals were agreed in the House of Lords on 18 June.
Our country has a proud history of helping those fleeing conflict and persecution and we must continue to play our part by taking our fair share of refugees. We could do more to help unaccompanied child refugees in Europe by fully implementing the Dubs scheme. This was a targeted scheme for resettling some unaccompanied refugee children in the UK.
It’s very disappointing that the Government ended the Dubs scheme, having resettled far fewer unaccompanied children than anticipated. We should restore the Dubs scheme and accept some of the most vulnerable children in the world.
Refugees should be able to settle, integrate and live fulfilling lives in the UK and more needs to be done to reunite families, for example by expanding the scope of the refugee family reunion rules.
MP for Leeds Central