MPs have voted to reject a House of Lords amendment to the Immigration Bill which seeks to protect child refugee family reunification rights beyond the end of the Brexit transition period.
Despite passing the initial stages in the House of Commons back in June, the Immigration Bill has encountered considerable difficulty in the Lords, with peers advising that five amendments must be made before it is made into UK law.
One of these amendments pertains to child refugee legislation, and states that the existing rules for unaccompanied child refugees must be maintained beyond the end of the Brexit transition period. The rules facilitate the reunification of unaccompanied child refugees with their close family members in the UK, and are viewed by migrants’ rights organisations as an indispensable piece of legislation.
However, the amendment has now been stripped out by MPs, who have voted in favour of its removal by 327 votes to 264- majority 63. According to the division list, six Conservative MPs rebelled in an attempt to keep the measure in the Bill, including former ministers David Davis and Tim Loughton.
The Dubs Amendment
Known as the ‘Dubs Amendment’ after refugee campaigner and Labour peer Lord Dubs, it was successfully moved in the House of Lords for the second time prior to its recent dismissal in the Commons.
Lord Dubs, who fled Nazi Germany during his childhood, had this to say:
“Child refugees are the most vulnerable of all refugees. One of our concerns must be to tackle trafficking and give child refugees legal routes to safety. If there are no legal routes to safety, the traffickers simply exploit vulnerable people and make a lot of money out of it and endanger the lives of the children.”
The Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill forms the legislative basis for the new points-based immigration system that is set to come into effect on 1 January 2021. MPs also disagreed with the Lords’ third amendment- to give EU children in care and care leavers automatic Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)- by 330 votes to 262.
Speaking during the debate, Conservative former cabinet minister Karen Bradley described it as ‘absolutely vital’ to have safe and legal passages to the UK post-Brexit:
“If we want to stop the small boats, if we want to stop the migrants being under the wheel arches of vehicles, if we want to deal with this, we need to deal with it by making sure there is a safe and legal passage.”
If I can quote Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who said, ‘There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river, we need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in’.
“If I can urge the minister to work with the Home Office and newly created Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to make sure upstream we’re dealing in source countries with how we stop people falling into the river, because we can’t deal with that problem just in the Channel.”
According to Tory former minister Tim Loughton:
“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.”
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