Liberal Democrat Councillors successfully moved a motion at St Albans Full Council on Wednesday night calling on the Government to reverse its abandonment of the commitment to allow 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children into the UK.
Moving the motion, Councillor Anthony Rowlands said:
‘Our community and this Council have done excellent work in supporting Syrian refugees over the past two years. Groups, such as Herts for Refugees, have turned words into action and provided practical support both locally and in France.
‘Last May the government agreed to an amendment by Lord Dubs to the Immigration Bill to enable unaccompanied children to come to the UK. It was understood that homes would be found for 3,000 children. Earlier this month the Home Office disgracefully back-tracked on this commitment reducing that number to a shameful 350.
‘This has prompted widespread condemnation including from Conservative MP Heidi Allen, formerly a St Albans Councillor.
‘The current plight of these children is almost beyond description: they are refugees from war-torn communities, alone and, in many cases, deeply traumatised. As a civilised nation aiming to play a constructive role in the global community we should be opening our arms to these desperate children not slamming the door.
‘It is gratifying that enough Conservative Councillors understood the overwhelming moral case behind our plea to enable it to be passed,’ said Anthony.
Seconding the motion Cllr Gerard McHale said:
‘Amnesty International has said the Home Secretary has this horribly wrong. By restricting the commitment to providing a safe route out of deprived areas, the government will only exacerbate the risk facing these children of falling victim to traffickers and other abusers.
‘We must remember that the reason why these children are in such a dire predicament is that they are trying to escape from bombs and from their homes being destroyed.
‘The very least we should be doing for these communities is what we’ve already committed to. Many of us believe we should be doing much, much more’
“Council recalls the unanimous support, expressed in this Chamber on 25 February 2015 for resettling Syrian refugees, and looks forward to an update on those who have been settled here in due course.
In light of this, Council considers with dismay the recent announcement by the Government to close the “Dubs” scheme for transferring vulnerable child refugees to Britain, and only accept 350 of the previously agreed national total of 3,000 child refugees.
Council therefore requests that the Leader write to the Minister of State for Immigration and local MPs urging the Government to reconsider its decision and expressing the support of the people of City and District of St Albans for the Government to retain the scheme and to put a greater effort to ensure that more children are resettled to the UK as soon as possible.”