WOKING MP Jonathan Lord has voted against Britain accepting 3,000 unaccompanied Syrian child refugees who have travelled to Europe to escape war.
He was joined by Surrey Heath MP Michael Gove on Monday – alongside 292 other members of the House – in the decision not to implement an amendment to the Immigration Bill proposed by Labour’s Lord Dubs.
The motion was rejected by a slender majority of just 18 and was greeted with public outcry, but the Government have said they will take an equivalent number of vulnerable children from camps near the Syrian conflict zone.
Mr Lord defended the decision, and cited the Government’s recent pledge to settle 20,000 refugees from the camps into the UK over the next four years as testament to Britain’s commitment to helping to resolve the crisis.
He told the News & Mail: “What we must not do is set up perverse incentives for families to send children into treacherous waters in dinghies, and into the dangerous hands of traffickers.
“Europe already has more refugees than it can cope with. We will help make sure those in the Middle East and North Africa region are safe, secure and well looked after.
“I am very proud that the Government and charities are already doing so much for refugees, and children in particular.
“The UK is spending £2.3 billion on aid to Syria and the surrounding region; this has helped with 20 million food rations and brought sanitation and hygiene to more than seven million people.”
Monday’s proposed changes came about after Lord Dubs – himself an arrival in Britain when escaping the Holocaust in the 1930s – branded an existing scheme to offer sanctuary to 3,000 young conflict camp refugees as ‘inadequate’ when it was revealed that the programme excludes the hundreds of thousands currently camped in Europe.
A small number of Tories opposed their own Government in the vote.
A statement from Liberal Democrat Leader, Tim Farron, said: “In the past, Britain has consistently stood up for the best in human nature. In this [vote] the Government has dishonoured that legacy.”
The Bill returned to The Lords on Tuesday – as the News & Mail went to press – with a revised amendment removing reference to ‘3,000’ refugees.