UK Govt shuts out child refugees as Scotland trains refugee doctors

Nathanael Williams

UK Government is condemned for betrayal of its international commitments as Scotland shows a different path

LONE CHILDREN caught up in the migrant crisis across Europe and left stranded and defenceless across the continent will be not be permitted entry to the UK as of March this year.

Last night (Wednesday 8 February) the UK Home Office said it would stop receiving lone refugee children through the resettlement programme initiated by the Dubs amendment.

The move has been rebuked as a violation of the agreement by former Prime Minister David Cameron, campaigned for by peer and former refugee Lord Dubs, aimed at helping some of the estimated 90,000 lone migrant children across Europe.

The announcement follows the news that the Scottish Government, which has repeatedly called for the UK to take more refugees from the European continent, will increase training for refugee doctors in Scotland.

“Getting back into medicine is what I have been looking for since my first day in Scotland, and I cannot imagine myself being anywhere else.” Mohammad Helmi

Commenting on the refusal to take more child refugees Stuart McDonald MP, the SNP spokesperson on immigration, asylum and border control, said: “Theresa May is guilty of abject moral failure – showing callous disregard for some of the world’s most vulnerable children.

“It is shameful and completely unacceptable for the UK government to turn its back on child refugees in the midst of the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War.

“To now go back on its word, and close down this key route prematurely, further compounds the shameful behaviour of Theresa May and her Tory ministers throughout the Syrian refugee crisis.

“Canada, a country with half the population of the UK, took over 35,000 Syrian Refugees in 2016 alone, while Germany took around 300,000. In comparison, the UK government’s efforts have been pathetic and bring shame to a country with a proud tradition of accepting refugees.

These comments were backed up Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who branded the decision “disgraceful”.

“The UK government’s efforts have been pathetic and bring shame to a country with a proud tradition of accepting refugees.” Stewart McDonald

The UK Government stated that the reason for the withdrawal of any more places for lone children was that, in its view, local authorities had been filled to capacity. They stressed the importance of local councils being ready to receive refugees in an orderly manner.

But critics of the UK Government point to Middle Eastern countries such as Lebanon which itself endured a long civil war for almost two decades, yet has taken in nearly 1.6m refugees from war-torn Syria. Other EU states, notably Germany, have taken in far larger numbers than the 350 unaccompanied children the UK has. As of August, Germany had taken 9,000 unaccompanied children.

The Dubs amendment to the Immigration Act 2016 meant that the home secretary had to bring a specified number of lone refugee children to the UK. Critics point to the fact that there was no target number written into the law but it was suggested the UK could help 3,000.

The Scottish Government, yesterday (Wednesday 8 February), confirmed it would set aside funding at Kersland House Surgery in Milngavie for the training of refugee doctors.

Equalities Secretary Angela Constance announced the funding, stating that it was part of a concerted effort for ensuring refugees could be better integrated socially as well as economically in Scotland.

She said: “This programme, unique in the UK. will reduce the de-skilling of medics who have sought refuge in Scotland, and will allow NHS Scotland to utilise the experience of refugee doctors with valuable and highly specialised skills.

“Canada, a country with half the population of the UK took over 35,000 Syrian Refugees in 2016 alone.” Stewart McDonald

“We know access to training and employment is crucial to integration, and it can be devastating for those who had a skill in their home country to be unable to use that in their new country. By giving people a helping hand to utilise their skills we’re not only supporting them to make connections and friendships and to build a better life, but we will all benefit from those skills too.

“Scotland has a long history of welcoming refugees, and working together to ensure they have the best possible opportunities to integrate and create a safe and stable home for themselves.”

These comments were supported by Mohammad Helmi, a Syrian Doctor participant on the New Refugee Doctors’ Project, who said: “The project funding means it can be tailored to meet our needs in order to bridge the gap in our career path. Getting back into medicine is what I have been looking for since my first day in Scotland, and I cannot imagine myself being anywhere else. It is my passion where I will able to contribute the most to humanity.”

A legal challenge on how the government has handled it’s commitment to child refugees will commence on Friday (10 February). It will be led by Help Refugees, a UK based charity working in France.

Around two million refugees have entered Europe in the last two years, mainly fleeing conflict and social collapse in the Middle East and North Africa.

Picture courtesy of Steve Evans

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