Taking Cues from Trump, UK Quietly 'Shuts Door' on Child Refugees

In what was described as an example of "British Trumpism," the U.K. government on Wednesday quietly ended its commitment to accepting and rehousing thousands of unaccompanied child refugees—a decision decried as "a betrayal of these vulnerable children and a betrayal of British values."

The so-called Dubs Amendment was introduced by Lord Alfred Dubs, a Czech Jew who came to the U.K. in the 1930s via the Kindertransport effort. Former U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron agreed to the scheme last year following "huge pressure" from fellow members of Parliament (MPs) and charities.

The Guardian reports:

The original campaign for the Dubs amendment called for Britain to help 3,000 of the estimated 90,000 lone child refugees who had arrived in Europe in 2015 amid the biggest refugee crisis since the second World War.

But the government will get nowhere close to that number, according to a statement from Prime Minister Theresa May's Home Office. 

BBC News reports that in Wednesday's statement, "Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill said 200 had already arrived and a further 150 children would follow before the end of March, filling the available places offered by local authorities."

The Home Office further "confirmed to the Guardian that no further 'Dubs' children would be transferred after the last group of 150," that paper writes.

The Mirror noted that Goodwill's "announcement was buried in a 1,300-word written statement with no opportunity [for] MPs to interrogate him in Parliament." The chamber will be on recess starting Thursday—a detail not lost on U.K. Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley.

Outcry from liberal lawmakers and supportive organizations was immediate and harsh.

"During the Kindertransport Sir Nicky Winton rescued 669 children from Nazi persecution virtually singlehandedly," said 83-year-old Dubs himself. "I was one of those lucky ones. It would be a terrible betrayal of his legacy if as a country we were unable to do more than this to help a new generation of child refugees."

"I urge the Prime Minister to show leadership by continuing and building on this program," he continued, "not shutting the door to some of the most vulnerable refugee children."

Added Refugee Council policy manager Judith Dennis: "The government's job is far from done; the global refugee crisis hasn't gone away and if anything it's getting worse."

Rabbi Janet Darley, spokeswoman for the campaign group Safe Passage, said: "Our grandparents set us the example when they rescued 10,000 child refugees from Nazi persecution through the Kindertransport. Today's announcement falls shamefully short."

"Do we really want to be joining Donald Trump in slamming the door on vulnerable refugee children?" Darley asked. 

She wasn't the only one to draw unfavorable comparisons to May's counterpart across the Atlantic.

Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said, "May's treatment of refugee children is appalling, and shows how close she has moved to the policies of Trump."

And his colleague, Labour MP Yvette Cooper, called the decision to halt the program "completely wrong."

"At a time when President Trump is trying to close down refugee programs altogether, the British government should not be closing the very program designed to help the most vulnerable refugees of all," Cooper said. 

A petition calling on May to reinstate the Dubs program is circulating online.

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