UK

MSF reaction: Lords vote in support of Immigration Bill amendment giving refugee children lifeline in the UK

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On Monday 5 October the House of Lords voted on Amendment 15 to the Immigration Bill, which preserves safe and legal pathways to the UK for unaccompanied children in Europe. The amendment passed, 317 votes to 223.

Vickie Hawkins, executive director of MSF UK, said:

The House of Lords has done the right thing by voting for Amendment 15.

It has been deeply disheartening to have watched the UK government abdicate their responsibilities by attempting to close down some of the few existing routes to safety for refugees and asylum seekers within Europe. This amendment gives the UK Government a chance to take steps towards rectifying this: it is surely the bare minimum to ensure that safe routes to sanctuary in the UK stay open for unaccompanied children.

We sincerely hope that the UK Government will show some humanity and accept this amendment.

Irrespective of the UK’s relationship with the EU, the government has an obligation to protect vulnerable people who have crossed borders seeking international protection. A lack of legal options only forces children into the hands of criminal groups, taking extreme risks to reach safety. Otherwise they are trapped in dangerous camps like Moria on Lesbos, which burned to the ground just a few weeks ago after years of NGOs sounding the alarm over the terrible, overcrowded conditions.

Despite the UK government’s assurances that protecting vulnerable children remains a priority, so far, it has not taken in any children caught up in the fire, while France and Germany have taken hundreds each. Reports that the Home Office have also considered sending asylum seekers to isolated islands are disturbing, reminiscent of the offshore processing facilities in Nauru where MSF teams found the policy had a disastrous mental health impact. Immigration policy which seeks to deter vulnerable people only exacerbates the trauma and suffering that they bear.

Now is the time for the government to assume their responsibilities and accept this amendment.