Quakers condemn end of child refugee scheme

Friends join other faith groups in expressing concern at the suspension of a programme to resettle unaccompanied minors

A letter and statement addressed to Amber Rudd, the home secretary, expressing concern at the intention to suspend the programme to resettle unaccompanied minors seeking refuge in the United Kingdom, has been signed by recording clerk Paul Parker. He joined leaders of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Church of Scotland, the United Reformed Church and the Methodist Church in urging the government to reconsider and adopt a policy that gives priority to the wellbeing of children.

In May 2016 parliament committed itself to an ongoing programme of resettlement for lone children, following Alf Dubs’, Labour peer, amendment to the Immigration Bill. While exact figures were not given in final legislation, the number envisaged was considerably more than the limit that has now been imposed. The intention to suspend the programme was made in a written ministerial statement last week.

The letter and joint statement point out the potentially damaging effect of signalling to already vulnerable minors that they are unlikely to find safe passage and resettlement if they make themselves known to relevant authorities. It also encourages an approach that actively seeks to engage with churches and community groups, rather than limiting provision to the capacity of local authorities.

Paul Parker said: ‘If the effect of the government’s decision is that a child’s safest route to sanctuary in Britain is to risk their life on the back of a truck, then we as a country must do better.’

Russell Barr, moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said: ‘We urge UK government ministers to reconsider and we remain willing to work with the home office to find creative ways to deliver on the widespread expectation on the part of the general public to achieve the goal of 3,000 children as soon as possible.’

Lynn Green, general secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, commented: ‘I have visited some of the temporary camps for myself and have been deeply moved both by the humanity of those who live there, and the vulnerability of unaccompanied children and young people who seek shelter within those communities. Many have already been robbed of much of their childhood and we have a moral responsibility to do all that we can to protect them and provide places of refuge and support.’

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