In Brief

UK changes rules on child refugees

Polling reveals swing in public attitudes as government closes door to child migrants

Immigration

The British government has been accused of “turning its back” on vulnerable youngsters after quietly announcing that unaccompanied child refugees will no longer be given sanctuary in the UK.

Until now, ministers have been legally required to grant asylum to children arriving in the UK under the terms of an amendment made by David Cameron’s government to an EU law in 2016, amid a flood of refugees arriving in Europe from war-torn Syria.

But in a written response to a question from Labour MP Alex Sobel last week, Immigration Minister Chris Philp said that while the “Home Office takes its responsibility for the welfare of children very seriously”, post-Brexit Britain would no longer offer a legal route into the country for these minors.

Campaigners are warning that vulnerable children will “instead turn to people smuggling gangs to assist them with travelling to Britain, placing them at greater risk of trafficking”, The Independent reports.

Josie Naughton, chief executive of charity Choose Love, has accused Boris Johnson’s government of using Brexit as an opportunity to “turn its back on the weakest in society”.

And Downing Street also appears to be out of step with public opinion.

Polling of more than 2,500 people by Ipsos Mori found that the proportion of Britons who want immigration to be reduced has fallen from more than two-thirds (67%) in February 2015 to just under half (49%).

The latest survey, conducted in November, also found that 12% would like to see an increase in immigration to the UK, compared with 7% in 2015. 

The UK introduced a new points-based immigration system at the start of this month following the end of the Brexit transition period. Under the new set-up, applicants who want to move to the UK have to qualify for 70 points to get a visa.

Having a job offer from an approved employer for a skilled job earns 40 points, and being paid at least £25,600 a year will net a further 20 points. The ability to speak English earns ten points, and applicants can also gain extra points for having qualifications such as a PhD. 

The government claims the new policy will lead to less immigration. However, the Migration Observatory says this outcome “is impossible to guarantee because numbers can fluctuate for reasons unrelated to policy – such as the strength of the economy in the UK or in countries of origin”.

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