East Sussex MPs have rejected plans to offer sanctuary to 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees who have travelled to Europe from Syria.
The plans – which were put forward as an amendment to the Government’s Immigration Bill and would have committed the UK to accepting child refugees from Europe – were defeated by 294 votes to 276 at the House of Commons on Monday night (April 25).
Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell, Lewes MP Maria Caulfield and Wealden MP Nusrat Ghani all voted with the government against the amendment, as did Hastings MP Amber Rudd and Bexhill MP Huw Merriman.
Speaking after the vote Mrs Ansell said: “I voted with the Government on the Immigration Bill last night because it means that 3,000 children from the Middle East will be given refuge in this country.
“The Government has listened to MPs, various refugee organisations and indeed public pressure to set up this resettlement scheme to take these 3,000. If it hadn’t, I would not have voted with the Government.
“I understand why many people would want to take children from Europe, but by taking youngsters from this war-torn region we send a clear message to families that they do not need to take the dangerous and expensive journey across the Mediterranean at the mercy of people traffickers.
“Anything that stops parents putting their children on boats unaccompanied to get them to Europe is a good thing. It has to be better we take them from source safely, under supervision and with the right assessment.
“It’s terrible that children are in Europe, that they are alone and in need of help. Even though some of the conditions are awful, Europe is not a warzone. Europe has the resources to deal with this problem and we are helping the French and others with this. The UK itself can better help by taking children away from the bombs and the refugee camps.
“I don’t pretend these are easy judgements to make, but I do believe this is a way forward that will help change the lives of these children, and it should be welcomed.”
Bexhill MP Huw Merriman also defended the Government’s position and said accepting refugees from Europe would send a message to traffickers and other refugees.
Mr Merriman said: “The Government has committed to taking 3,000 refugees, mostly children, from war-torn Syria. These children are in more risk of danger than the 3,000 children already in Europe which campaigners are asking us to house.
“Taking children already in Europe sends a message out to traffickers and children that it is worth risking life at sea to cross into Europe. We need to help people in the camps and this is why the Government has committed to taking 20,000 refugees directly from the war-torn areas.”
Maria Caulfield MP said: “It is my opinion that those young people remaining in Syria should be our priority, and therefore I very much welcome this Government’s approach. It is also why I chose not to support Lord Dubs amendment, which would instead see the relocation of 3,000 children from Europe into the UK.
“Although I fully understand that the situation in Europe for refugees is far from ideal, it should be remembered that they are no longer in war-stricken Syria, unlike those that will be relocated under the new Government scheme.”
Ms Ghani also backed the Government scheme. She said: “The Government has listened to concerns raised by a number of individuals and groups and established a new resettlement scheme focused on the children at risk in the Middle East and North Africa.
“This scheme is supported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and will see up to 3,000 vulnerable people relocated to the UK over the next four years.
“The vast majority will be children, with some accompanied by families or carers. This is in addition to the existing commitment to resettle 20,000 Syrians under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme.”
Hastings MP Amber Rudd did not respond to requests for comment.
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