As a minister who had responsibility for our efforts to provide relief to refugees from the conflict in Syria, I was properly vigilant about getting value for money. That money goes much further and helps many more refugees in the region than it does if it is spent in Europe.
Offering resettlement in Europe costs more, meaning that we can help fewer families; even worse, it encourages a disgusting trafficking trade masterminded by gangsters; and it attracts migrants from well beyond Syria, inducing them too to undertake an all too often fatal journey.
Never the less, we have implemented resettlement schemes for the most vulnerable refugees selected direct from camps in the region (in order not hold out any incentive that encourages the flow across the Mediterranean and Aegean seas) and we will resettle 20,000 Syrians over the course of this parliament through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme. Of the 4,400 already settled under this scheme so far, half are children.
UK will also resettle 3,000 children and their families from the wider region. In the last year the Government has granted asylum, or another form of leave to remain, to over 8,000 children.
This week the Government announced that, in accordance with section 67 of the Immigration Act (the so-called Dubs amendment), that it will admit 350 children who have already made it to Europe. This number includes over 200 children already transferred from France, and a further 150 over the coming months.
The Government was obliged by the Immigration Act to put a specific number on how many children Britain would take based on consultations with local authorities about their capacity to make provision for them. 350 wasn’t just arbitrarily plucked from the air, it was reached after months of consultations with the local authorities about what they can absorb. Finding suitable homes for these children is actually quite difficult and adds to the pressure that already exists, arising from the 3,000 or so unaccompanied asylum-seeking children arrive in Britain every year.
Currently many children are camping out in Eastern Europe, in dangerous and frightful conditions, eschewing the shelter and official assistance that is available (and to which we are contributing financially) because they believe that their chances of making it to the UK are better.
The bishops and others who demand that we take in more children, need to recognize the hard facts: they are encouraging the flow of children undertaking the risks, and that money will go so much further in providing relief to many more children when spent in the region, rather than drawing them to seek refuge in Western Europe.