In a move to avoid defeat in the House of Commons, David Cameron has agreed that Britain will take in unaccompanied child migrants from Greece, Italy and France.
The exact number Britain will accept is unknown but the number is expected to be in the thousands. Local bodies will be consulted to discuss how many migrant children can be resettled.
Until today, David Cameron has always rejected the idea of taking in a significant number of unaccompanied children fleeing Syria. His argument has been that the Government does not want to encourage people traffickers.
Children registered in Greece, Italy or France before 20th March - when the EU struck its refugee deal with Turkey - will be eligible for resettlement in the UK.
The Plight of Child Migrants
According to Save the Children, an estimated 26,000 unaccompanied children entered Europe last year. Of these, at least 10,000 unaccompanied refugee children have disappeared after arriving in Europe from the Middle East. Many of these are feared to have fallen into the hands of organised trafficking syndicates.
Refugee children without the protection of adults are also at risk of sexual exploitation. Europol had received evidence of sexual abuse occurring in Germany and Hungary.
Many are sleeping in parks and railway stations, cold, hungry and completely vulnerable.
Responsibility of Local Bodies
Local authorities would be expected to share responsibilities of taking in child refugees and will need to put strategies in place with regards to housing, education and health care. Many of the children will be severely traumatised and may need expert mental health care for a considerable time.
Not the first time Britain has taken in child refugees
Today’s announcement has brought comparisons from many circles to the ‘Kindertransport’ of the 1930s. This was an organised effort to rescue Jewish children just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. Approximately 10,000 Jewish refugee children were taken in by Britain and they were often the only members of their family to survive the Holocaust.
However, Mr Cameron rejected comparisons with the "Kindertransport" scheme at Prime Minister's Questions.
"To say that the Kindertransport is taking today children from France or Germany or Italy, safe countries that are democracies, I think that is an insult to those countries," he told MPs.
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