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UK upper house defeats PM Boris Johnson over child refugees issue

Peers led by Lord Alf Dubs, who himself arrived in Britain as a child fleeing the Nazis, accused ministers of seeking to water down their commitment to the rights of family reunion.

Published: 21st January 2020 10:14 PM  |   Last Updated: 21st January 2020 10:14 PM   |  A+A-

UK PM Boris Johnson

UK PM Boris Johnson (Photo | PTI)

By PTI

LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered another defeat in the unelected House of Lords on Tuesday, over the government's plans for child refugees seeking to join relatives in Britain after Brexit.

Peers led by Lord Alf Dubs, who himself arrived in Britain as a child fleeing the Nazis, accused ministers of seeking to water down their commitment to the rights of family reunion.

They voted by 300 to 220 for Dubs' amendment to a bill ratifying the terms of Britain's departure from the European Union on January 31.

However, like three other changes made to the bill in the upper chamber, it likely to be overturned when the legislation returns to the lower elected House of Commons on Wednesday.

The Dubs amendment would stop the government removing a legal obligation to negotiate with the EU continued rights of family reunion for unaccompanied child refugees after Brexit.

"I don't know whether it's total incompetence or whether it's malice but the signal they're sending is that they don't like child refugees," Dubs told AFP ahead of the vote.

Speaking for the government on Tuesday, Baroness Susan Williams insisted the commitment to protecting vulnerable children remained, citing a "proud record" over the past decade.

More than 41,000 children have been granted protection in the UK since 2010, she said.

Most of these were welcomed under Britain's obligations to the international convention on refugees and other commitments, rather than as a result of EU rules.

"The government is, my Lords, and remains committed to seeking a reciprocal agreement for the family reunion of unaccompanied children seeking international protection in either the EU or the UK," she said.

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