The British government has announced it will end a scheme to help vulnerable child refugees less than a year after it was introduced.
Robert Goodwill, immigration minister, said the UK could be “proud” of its efforts helping refugees in a statement on Wednesday announcing the end of the Dubs programme, which will have helped 350 children resettle in the country when it ends in March.
The scheme, which took the form of an amendment to immigration legislation, was introduced last May after pressure from veteran British politician Lord Alf Dubs on the government to provide sanctuary to children stuck in makeshift camps in northern France.
Dubs himself arrived in Britain as a child refugee fleeing Nazi Germany during the second world war.
About 200 children have arrived in the UK under scheme since it took effect in October last year, with another 150 expected before it ends.
“[The] UK has a proud history of providing protection for those in need, including some of the most vulnerable children affected by the migration crisis,” said Goodwill.
“The government’s strategy is to support international efforts to find a comprehensive and sustainable solution to the refugee crisis; we must deal with its root causes, as well as respond to the consequences.”
Charities helping refugees in northern France had expected up to 3,000 child refugees to be supported under the scheme.
Care4Calais, one of the largest charities operating in the region, posted a status update on its Facebook page in response to the decision: “We cannot let this happen”.
A petition launched by activists has already picked up more than 6,000 signatures.
Marta Welander, director of Refugee Rights Data Project, told Al Jazeera the decision to end Dubs was “deplorable”.
“The UK government’s decision is a misguided and deplorable move that appears to go against principles of human rights and child protection,” she said
“Our research indicates that refugee children living in precarious situations on the UK’s doorstep remain in critical need of protection.”
Opposition politicians also weighed in, with Labour MP Yvette Cooper condemning the decision as “shameful”.
“[The government] is completely wrong to close down Dubs scheme to help lone child refugees after less than 12 months! Refugee crisis hasn’t gone away,” she wrote on Twitter.
“US President trying to close refugee programmes altogether. Now UK Gov closing Dubs programme for most vulnerable refugees of all. Shameful.”
French authorities demolished the informal Calais refugee camp, known as The Jungle, in October.
About 1,179 of the more than 10,000 refugees living in the camp at the time were children.
The UK also operates another scheme for the resettlement of children, under which young refugees are reunited with family members already living in the UK.
Source: Al Jazeera