Lord Alf Dubs has urged fellow peers to challenge the government, after it voted down of proposals to enshrine protections for child refugees in the Brexit agreement.
Following his election victory, Boris Johnson re-drafted his European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill and rowed back on the previous government’s acceptance of an amendment from Labour peer Lord Dubs to allow unaccompanied child refugees to continue to be reunited with their families in the UK after exit day.
Clause 37 of the Bill replaces the pledge with a watered-down vow for ministers to “make a statement” on the progress of the talks once the divorce with Brussels is complete.
MPs voted against amendment 4 to Clause 37 by 348 votes to 252.
Taking to Twitter, Lord Dubs, who fled from the Nazis on the Kindertransport to Britain when he was aged six, called the defeat “shocking”.
“Today’s decision by the government, to refuse refugee children the right to family reunion, will be challenged in the Lords. Families belong together. Lone refugee children deserve our help”, he said.
Today's decision by the government, to refuse refugee children the right to family reunion, will be challenged in the Lords. Families belong together. Lone refugee children deserve our help. https://t.co/URD7fWOYJV
— Alf Dubs (@AlfDubs) January 8, 2020
Speaking to Jewish News after the Queen’s Speech in mid December, Lord Dubs said he was “bitterly disappointed and angry” with the move.
He said his amendment “passed both houses of Parliament. We thought this was absolutely right – and then at the eleventh hour yesterday, we heard that they were pulling it. I am totally taken aback.”
The Board of Deputies also branded the move a “poor decision”.
This week, Labour branded the move “disgraceful”, while the SNP said it could have “tragic consequences”.
With Conservative MPs voting against the amendment, it was defeated by a majority of 96 votes on Wednesday afternoon, on the Bill’s second day of committee stage scrutiny in the Commons.
Ahead of the debate, Labour leadership hopeful Sir Keir Starmer and Lord Dubs wrote to all Tory MPs calling on them to vote against the Prime Minister’s “disgraceful” change.
Brexit minister Robin Walker has said the Government is “fully committed both to the principle of family reunion and to supporting the most vulnerable children. Our policy has not changed.
We will also continue to reunite children with their families under the Dublin Regulation during the implementation period.”
He added that there was “very strong support on these benches for the principle of family reunion”.