BASW has added its name to the growing criticism of the Government’s decision to change the arrangements for the care and resettlement of certain child refugees. The so-called ‘Dubs amendment’ scheme, created by Labour peer and former child refugee Lord Alf Dubs and arranged under Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016, involved the transport and resettlement of children and young people who were refugees from the war in Syria or who were former residents of the Calais ‘Jungle’ refugee camp.
Campaigners had understood that some 3,000 children would be offered sanctuary in the UK. With media interest fixed on the Brexit vote, the Government quietly announced in a written statement that no more than 350 unaccompanied child refugees will be admitted to Britain; 200 have been resettled and an additional 150 children will be placed before the scheme ends. Unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) are ‘looked after’ under Section 20 of the 1989 Children Act and are each therefore cared for by local authority children's services. Many BASW members work directly with UASC children or work in teams where UASC children and young people form part of the overall caseload.
Commenting on the Government’s decision to scrap the Dubs amendment, BASW Chief Executive Dr Ruth Allen said: “This is a disgraceful move. We have to remember these quotas and numbers set by Government represent real lives. A cap of 350 children falls far short of the Government’s original commitment to the Dubs amendment both in fact and in spirit.
“These are children first and refugees second, as such they are entitled to the protection of the 1989 Children Act and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). I commend all those social workers who work with unaccompanied asylum seeking children. In a world where people are putting up walls, these social workers are building bridges. In a post Brexit vote climate, we must not give in to hatred and xenophobia or lose sight of our inherent decency as a nation.
“A central theme woven throughout the work we do is to campaign in the profession to ensure the children and adults who are here and receiving services get full and equal treatment. This is not the case at present. BASW is trying to address the direction of travel against asylum seekers by encouraging all Government departments to comply with human rights and international conventions when delivering services”.
BASW has previously expressed concerns about the Government’s adherence to the Dubs amendment in written evidence to the Children and Social Work Public Bill Committee in December 2016. In November 2016, Lord Alf Dubs was the keynote speaker at a collaborative event on social work with refugees and asylum seekers organised by BASW London branch in partnership with the Social Work Action Network (SWAN), London South Bank University and Unison.