Jewish groups slam UK for backtracking on child refugee pledge

The Holocaust survivor who introduced the amendment calls the UK government's decision "a disgrace."

February 9, 2017 15:14
1 minute read.
syrian refugees

Syrian refugee children pose as they play near their families' residence at Al Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, January 30, 2016.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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UK Jewish groups have condemned a government decision made on Wednesday that reduces the number of unaccompanied child refugees who will be absorbed by Great Britain this year from approximately 3,000 to just 350.

Dr. Edie Friedman, the director of the London-based Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE), spoke to the Jewish Chronicle, saying, "Britain is better than this, we have to show our generosity of spirit and not turn our back on child refugees." 

The defeated amendment was part of the British Immigration Act and was introduced by Lord Alfred Dubs, a Czech-born British-Jewish politician whose life was saved by Sir Nicholas Winston and the Kindertransport.

Winston, an English stockbroker, helped organize the famed Kindertransport, which facilitated the rescue of almost 10,000 Jewish children from Continental Europe before the breakout of WWII and the Holocaust, taking them to safety in the UK.

The amendment, if passed, would have required the UK government to “make arrangements to relocate to the UK and support a specified number of unaccompanied refugee children from other countries in Europe.” Three-thousand children were expected to arrive in the UK following its passage, according to the amendment's supporters.

When news of the government decision to lower the number of accepted child refugees  to 350 was made public, Lord Dubs responded, saying he was confused by the turn of events as he was under the impression that the number of children allowed into the UK would be unlimited.

"It is a disgrace. A piece of legislation was passed with enormous public support, and the government has done nothing discernible about it," he told The Guardian.

The quota of 350 includes 200 children already relocated from the northern French city of Calais to the UK earlier this year.

The number of people seeking asylum in Britain is relatively low compared to other European countries. It stood at 41,280 in the year to September 2016.

Germany, the European country with the highest numbers of asylum seekers, received more than 200,000 applications in the third quarter alone.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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