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High Court hears challenge to UK Government's closure of the Dubs Scheme

Starting on Tuesday 20 June 2017, the High Court will hear a legal challenge brought by leading NGO Help Refugees to the Government’s failure to implement the Dubs Amendment.

Lord Alf Dubs and campaigners at the High Court

20 June 2017

Section 67 Immigration Act 2016 (‘the Dubs Amendment’) requires the Government to make arrangements ‘as soon as possible’ after the passing of the Immigration Act 2016 (on 31 May 2016) to relocate and support a ‘specified number’ of unaccompanied refugee children from Europe.  The Government is required to consult with local authorities to determine the number of children to be relocated. 

The Government has already been forced, as the direct consequence of Help Refugees’ litigation, to admit that it ‘missed’ 130 local authority places for children, and to raise the original number of 350 children to be relocated to 480. 

Help Refugees, represented by Leigh Day Solicitors, are challenging the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, over the Government’s failure to comply properly with that duty:
  1. Help Refugees argues that the Government’s consultation with local authorities by which it reached the low number of children to be relocated was seriously defective.  The Help Refugees’ legal team will present evidence of hundreds of further local authority places for children that it says were unlawfully omitted by the Government from the calculation of nationwide capacity.  
  2. The legal team will also challenge the Government’s failure to implement its duties to relocate and support unaccompanied refugee children as soon as possible.  A year after the measure came into force, only approximately 200 children have so far been relocated to the UK under the Dubs Amendment, all from the Calais Camp; and the Government has yet to indicate when the next round of relocations, from Greece and Italy will begin.
  3. The Government is maintaining a policy (first adopted in July 2016) that children will only qualify for relocation under Dubs if the children were present in Europe before 20 March 2016.  Help Refugees argues that having delayed so long in implementing the Dubs Amendment, it is unlawful for the Government to maintain its policy of a 20 March 2016 cut-off point for refugee children’s eligibility for relocation. 

Lord Alf Dubs, a former child refugee and the original sponsor for the Dubs Amendment, said: 

“I believe the Government’s inadequate consultation to calculate local authority capacity, the woefully low number that the Government has set and the appallingly slow pace of relocations are all indicative of a level of incompetence in the current government that’s verging on deep cynicism. The Government’s foot-dragging is putting refugee children’s lives at risk. That is why this legal challenge is so very important.  What these children need is a helping hand, similar to the one Britain lent me when I was a boy. I wasn’t left alone to live in camps or on the streets of Europe. I was saved by Britain and its people.”

Juliet Stevenson, human rights activist and award-winning actress, said this:

“The focus in this incredibly important case might be on numbers, but these children are not statistics. They are desperately needy children. What happens with the Dubs Amendment is a test of our shared humanity. Are we going to turn our back on the children who are alone and most vulnerable, or do we choose to act with compassion and love, and offer a safe home and future to children we have the capacity to help?"

Rosa Curling, a human rights solicitor from Leigh Day who is acting on behalf of Help Refugees said: 

“The Government’s consultation with local authorities was seriously flawed. We are asking the Court to order the Government to reopen the consultation so that national capacity to assist these children can be properly assessed.”

Help Refugees Founder and CEO, Josie Naughton, said:

“We’re taking this action because lone refugee children in Europe are sleeping in woods, on streets and in acutely underequipped refugee camps in danger of the worst kinds of abuses. In May 2016, a law was put in place to help protect these children, but for over a year Amber Rudd and the Home Office have put children’s safety at risk by failing to uphold it. There are hundreds more local authority spaces available for these children and the Home Office knows it.”

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