Church leaders denounce suspension of “Dubs” policy
10 February 2017
In a joint letter to the Home Secretary, the leaders of
five Churches have expressed their concern at the Government's
announcement that it intends to suspend the programme for the safe
re-settlement of unaccompanied minors seeking refuge in the United
In May 2016 Parliament committed itself to an ongoing
programme of resettlement for lone children, following Lord Dubs'
amendment. While exact figures were not given in final legislation,
the number envisaged was considerably more than the limit that has
now been imposed. The intention to suspend the programme was made
in a written ministerial statement earlier this week.
In a joint statement and a letter to the Home Secretary,
leaders of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Church of
Scotland, Quakers in Britain, the United Reformed Church and the
Methodist Church have urged the Government to reconsider and adopt
a policy that prioritises the wellbeing of children. The statement
points out the potentially damaging effect of signalling to already
vulnerable minors that they are unlikely to find safe passage and
re-settlement if they make themselves known to relevant
authorities. Compelling evidence shows that many such children have
simply "disappeared" from the temporary refugee camps. The
statement also highlights work already done by churches and
community groups to provide welcome and support for refugee
children and families, and encourages an approach that actively
seeks to engage with such agencies, rather than limiting provision
to the capacity of Local Authorities.
Commenting on the statement, Rt Rev Dr Russell Barr,
Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said:
"We urge UK Government ministers to reconsider and we remain
willing to work with the Home Office to find creative ways to
deliver on the widespread expectation on the part of the general
public to achieve the goal of 3,000 children as soon as possible.
As Christians we believe that there is a moral imperative to 'love
our neighbour', illustrated in Jesus' parable of the Good
Samaritan, that defines anyone in need as our neighbour regardless
of race, nationality, religion, language or culture."
Revd Lynn Green, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of
Great Britain, commented: "I have visited some of the temporary
camps for myself and have been deeply moved both by the humanity of
those who live there, and the vulnerability of unaccompanied
children and young people who seek shelter within those
communities. Many have already been robbed of much of their
childhood and we have a moral responsibility to do all that we can
to protect them and provide places of refuge and
The Revd Dr Roger Walton, President of the Methodist
Conference, commented: "It is not a question of the management of
resources, but rather a matter of political will. The way
that we treat the most vulnerable is a sign of what we aspire to be
as a society."
Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain, said:
"The ability to ask for sanctuary is a human right, and the
willingness to provide it is an act of basic humanity. If the
effect of the Government's decision is that a child's safest route
to sanctuary in Britain is to risk their life on the back of
a truck, then we as a country must do better."
The Revd Kevin Watson, General Assembly Moderator of the
United Reformed Church, added: "We lament this decision made by the
Government, which must do all that is within its power to recognise
and uphold the rights of children fleeing conflict."
We are dismayed to hear, through the announcement from the
Immigration Minister this week, of our Government's intention to
suspend its programme of resettling unaccompanied minors in March
2017. We urge the Government to reconsider this decision and to
recognise the potential harm that this policy might
Throughout the United Kingdom, our churches have sought to
offer welcome and practical support to refugees and asylum seekers
of all ages, often working in partnership with other faith and
community groups. It is disappointing your consideration of
provision is restricted to the perceived capacity of Local
Authorities. This approach is devoid of ambition and lacks
creativity. We would encourage an approach to refugee re-settlement
that actively includes and engages those community groups and
agencies, who offer the potential of raising our existing
There is compelling evidence that many young people have
"disappeared" from temporary camps. If this disturbing trend is to
be avoided in future, it is vital that they have the confidence to
present themselves to the relevant authorities at their earliest
opportunity. This will only happen if they know that in so doing,
they will be cared for and given safe passage. The current policy
announcement risks sending out a message that will further
discourage this, and thus significantly increase the risk of harm
to these children.
As the minister rightly asserted, the UK can be proud of
its record in welcoming refugee children, which now extends back
for over half a century. We believe that this should continue to be
the case and would urge the abandonment of any policy that gives
any impression to the contrary.
As a nation we have a rigorous approach to safeguarding,
reflecting a strong commitment to the wellbeing of children and
vulnerable citizens. We do not believe that this commitment should
be limited by political borders.
We urge you therefore to adopt a policy that places the
wellbeing and safety of children above every other consideration.
Not only do we commend this as representing our own Christian
values, but it is what we believe the overwhelming majority of UK
citizens would believe to be right and just.
Revd Lynn Green, General Secretary of the Baptist Union
of Great Britain
Rt Rev Dr Russell Barr, Moderator of the General
Assembly of the Church of Scotland
Revd Kevin Watson, General Assembly Moderator of the
United Reformed Church
Mr Alan Yates, General Assembly Moderator of the United
Revd Dr Roger Walton, President of the Methodist
Ms Rachel Lampard, Vice-President of the Methodist
Mr Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in