Lambeth has become the first council to pledge support for a scheme to support refugee children – and joined calls for the Government to provide enough funding for the programme to reach its potential.
In May 2016 the Government made a commitment to work with local councils to bring unaccompanied refugee children in Europe to safety in the UK, under an agreement called the “Dubs scheme”. Councils were told that they should be prepared to accept children who are presently in Greece, Italy and France.
Lambeth immediately contacted the Home Office to signal that the borough was ready to look after unaccompanied young asylum-seekers who come to the UK from camps in Europe.
But, three months later, campaign groups Liberty and Help Refugees are urging the Government to make good on its promise to help. Lambeth Council and six of its councillors have publicly joined the call for action.
“We welcome the Government’s commitment to create a resettlement scheme to bring unaccompanied refugee children in Europe to safety in the UK,” the statement of support from the human-rights organisation Liberty said. “We recognise and support the vital role that local councils can and should play in caring for children seeking sanctuary.
“We urge central government to provide funding to build the essential regional infrastructure necessary to secure the placement and support of children across the country and help us build them a brighter, safer future.”
Lambeth last year pledged to take in 20 refugee families from Syria by 2020. The borough has already accommodated 14 people from three families, with another family due to arrive next month. Lambeth is one of nine local authorities piloting a new scheme encouraging residents to register their offers of support for refugee families.
But the Council is still waiting for the go-ahead to take in unaccompanied young asylum-seekers who come to the UK from camps in Europe.
Cllr Lib Peck, leader of Lambeth Council, said: “Local and central government must work together to provide safety, stability and support to children in desperate need.
“Lambeth has a long history of offering refuge to people who have fled the most terrible conditions in other parts of the world. When children arrive here as refugees, completely alone after escaping terrible conditions, we have a responsibility to look after them and provide with a home where they can finally feel safe.”
Details of the Liberty campaign to Protect Refugee Children are available here: https://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/campaigning/protect-refugee-children