World Europe First Look

From 3,000 to 350: Britain to admit far fewer child migrants than expected

The British government plans to admit far fewer children than the supporters of a landmark immigration law had hoped. Home Secretary Amber Rudd argued that the rule acted as a draw, encouraging children to make the dangerous journey.

Young migrants from Syria sit in a bus as they arrive at a refugees camp at Kokkinotrimithia outside of the capital Nicosia, in the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017.
Petros Karadjias/ AP
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Many British lawmakers and citizens are crying foul at their government’s decision to drastically reduce the number of lone child migrants it would accept under a landmark immigration law.

The “Dubs amendment” to the UK’s 2016 Immigration Act requires the government to accept a certain number of child migrants who had arrived in Europe, after consulting with local authorities to determine how many could be helped. The amendment is focused on children under 13, but critics have alleged that older migrants are taking advantage.

According to the Associated Press, the amendment’s backers expected that it would enable 3,000 children to arrive. But on Thursday, Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced that the government would only allow 350 to enter. Two hundred have already arrived, and another 700 children traveling alone have entered Britain through a separate program to reunite families.

Now, British politicians are accusing the government of reneging on its commitment.

“Today Theresa May put Britain on the wrong side of history,” Lord Alf Dubs, who had championed the amendment, said in a statement. “To our country's shame, she has decided to shut down the Dubs Scheme, which promised child refugees a safe future in the UK.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury and several MPs have also issued statements condemning the decision.

According to The Guardian, Secretary Rudd maintained that the government had fulfilled its obligations under the amendment, setting a cap of 350 for this year after consulting with local authorities. She also dismissed the notion that this would mean an end to the plan.

"We are not saying we are closing the door, we are putting up the drawbridge," she said, according to the Associated Press. "We are not saying that."

Rudd did, however, link the amendment to human trafficking, a major concern of French authorities.

"I am clear that when working with my French counterparts they do not want us to indefinitely continue to accept children under the Dubs amendment because they specify, and I agree with them, that it acts as a draw. It acts as a pull. It encourages the people traffickers,” she said, according to the BBC.

Now, those who want the government to admit more children under Dubs are fighting back. One British charity, Help Refugees, has already challenged the decision in court, arguing that the government failed to properly consult with local authorities.

For Lord Dubs, who arrived in Britain as a Czech child refugee fleeing the Nazis, the case is personal – and far from over.

“We fought tooth and nail to win this last year,” he wrote in his statement. “I won’t let it slip away.”