By Lizzie Dearden
The UK is to take in up to 3,000 more child refugees after months of calls to help the youngest and most vulnerable migrants risking their lives to reach safety.
The Government hailed the programme, which will come on top of a previous pledge to welcome 20,000 Syrians, as one of the world’s largest resettlement programme for children on Thursday.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said the new scheme would see “at risk” children from the Middle East and North Africa selected based on advice from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Unaccompanied children are expected to be targeted but the figure includes adult relatives of some accompanied minors, who the Home Office said would be chosen in cases “where the UNHCR deems resettlement is in the best interests of the child”.
“On the UNHCR’s recommendation, the scheme will not solely target unaccompanied children, but will also extend to vulnerable ‘children at risk’, such as those threatened with child labour, child marriage and other forms of abuse or exploitation,” a spokesperson said.
Unlike previous British and European initiatives, the scheme is open to refugees of all nationalities, but it excludes those who have already reached Europe.
The caveat will come as a disappointment to charities and MPs who have been campaigning for months for the UK to take in children who have already risked their lives in boat crossings to reach the continent.