So far, so heartening right? Here is the Lords acting as the best kind of check on parliament, compelling the UK government to do the right thing. Save the Children estimates that there are some 24,000 unaccompanied child refugees currently in Europe, and that 3,000 would be a fair share for the UK to absorb.
Earlier this year, Europol, the EU’s criminal intelligence agency, warned that some 10,000 unaccompanied refugee children had disappeared after arriving in Europe.
There are all sorts of reasons why children (under 18) might be travelling across Europe alone: most are 14 to 15-year-old boys; some have been sent by parents who have assessed that even the perilous journey into Europe might result in better life chances than staying in countries where bombs fall daily.
Many children are separated along the way, or are grieving for adult relatives killed in wars or in transit. One thing we know for certain, though, is that unaccompanied children are terrifyingly vulnerable to the kinds of abuse that we don’t want to think about, easy prey for trafficking gangs and far worse.
The humanity bit came from the British House of Lords, which last week amended an Immigration Bill, so that the UK has to take in 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees currently in Europe. The amendment was proposed by Lord Alfred Dubs, the Labour peer who was himself rescued as a child from the Nazis.