14:47, February 10 315 0 theguardian.com

2017-02-10 14:47:12
Britain’s shameful failure on child refugees

The government’s inhumanity to lone child refugees shown by closing down the Dubs scheme and withdrawing from the Dublin convention represents a dark day for human rights (PM accused of closing the door on child refugees, 9 February). It is also a dark day for parliamentary democracy, as these actions must be viewed in a wider context of the ease with which the government received parliamentary backing from Conservative and Labour MPs for triggering article 50, even in the face of the very close referendum result and the high court judgment backing parliamentary scrutiny. The message is clear: back “leave”, support the “voice of the people” – “Let’s get back control of our borders” – and strengthen Theresa May’s negotiating hand in Europe. Outside of the UK “Brexit” has already given succour to European nationalist parties, and within the UK to the prioritising of border control, both reinforcing more xenophobic identities. And, as your editorial (10 February) points out, Donald Trump has legitimised this by embracing the same axis of racism. But what has been decisive is the moral capitulation of Conservative and Labour MPs who backed remain during the referendum. It is they who have created the political climate that has made it possible for the government to abandon some of the most vulnerable children on the planet.

Mike Stein

Emeritus professor, University of York

It is shameful that Theresa May has decided to renege on the government’s promise to bring the most vulnerable refugee children to safety. That the announcement was sneaked out by the Tories just before recess is a disgrace. The UK has taken just 350 lone child refugees, which is nowhere near the 3,000 originally proposed by Lord Dubs. Any claim by the prime minister to be a compassionate Conservative is utterly undermined by the dereliction of duty to some of the most vulnerable people in the world. The government should have been doing far more to support local authorities in helping provide the support and safety child refugees need so desperately. Only this week, a report by the counter-extremism organisation Quilliam revealed how thousands of child refugees, abandoned by countries like the UK, are being left vulnerable to sexual and financial exploitation by human traffickers and radicalisation by groups such as Islamic State that seek to capitalise on Europe’s wavering response to the refugee crisis.

Citizens UK is a charity that witnesses first-hand the horrifying daily risks these children faced in Calais and just how desperate for safety they were. This is a national scandal and the government should hang its head in shame. Britain has a proud tradition of welcoming those most in need. We stepped up to rescue 10,000 Jewish children from Nazi persecution. One of those children was Lord Dubs, who arrived in the UK as a child refugee on the Kindertransport. This is why I am joining Citizens UK and calling for the prime minister to stand by the country’s values, reverse her decision and keep Lord Dubs’ scheme alive.

Keith Taylor

Green party MEP for south-east England

The bishop of Croydon, the Rt Rev Jonathan Clark, is absolutely right to state “there are plenty of local authorities now saying they could provide for more children”. The harsh truth is that the bureaucratic brutalism of the Home Office won’t allow individuals and families, in cooperation with local authorities, to offer homes and futures to a further 3,000 unaccompanied children. And yes, we should hugely honour the rescue activities of Sir Nicholas Hinton and others, but also recall that the Home Office of the time made it clear that the reception of refugees, of whatever age, should not draw on “the public purse”, rather that religious groups and charities would provide. 10,000 children given refuge from the Nazis sounds admirable, but the UK governments of the 1930s and of the war years were far from enthusiastic about offering refuge to anyone; and after the war many of those who did find refuge were then classified as displaced persons who should be returned to their countries of origin, including Germany.

The immigration minister, Robert Goodwill, might be said to be obeying orders, the essence of bureaucratic brutalism.

Bruce Ross-Smith

Oxford

I would like to quote the words of Aneurin Bevan, who in 1948 said nothing could eradicate from his heart a deep burning hatred of the Tory party: “So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.” I feel like echoing those words due to their utterly disgraceful slamming of our doors to the thousands of child refugees they promised to take in. How dare they throw the responsibility on to local councils instead of even trying to find out how many families would be willing to take a child, as was done at the time of the Kindertransport. I personally know at least five families who would take a child. Old as I am, I would take one myself rather than let them rot in camps around Europe, a prey to every peril. Shame on us, and shame on our government.

Lynne Reid Banks

Shepperton, Surrey

Bernadette Sanders (Letters, 7 February) mentions the bronze sculptures of Jewish children at London’s Liverpool Street station. Less known is the equivalent group by the same sculptor in a seafront park at the Hook of Holland – the children’s departure point for their sea crossing to safety. All the more moving for being life-size.

Alex Faulkner

Lewes, East Sussex

I wonder if Theresa May, a vicar’s daughter, ever asks herself: “What would Jesus do?”

John Mann

Irchester, Northamptonshire

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