Thank you to all those who contacted me about the Government's vision for a global Britain and Unicef's event in Parliament regarding support for children worldwide. I am delighted to be able attend Unicef’s event and having worked with them before, particularly when I visited one of their refugee camps in Greece, I know full well what great work they do.
The Government's vision for Britain outside the EU is clear: a fully-independent, sovereign country with the freedom to make our own decisions. We are leaving the EU, we are not leaving Europe. The Government will build a global Britain that will trade around the world, build new alliances with other countries and deliver prosperity for its people.
As an outward-looking, globally engaged nation, I complete agree that the UK should continue to work to tackle international problems at their source - not wait for them to arrive on our doorstep – for example being at the forefront of the international response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, including as the second biggest bilateral donor of humanitarian aid, having already pledged £2.3 billion. Some £105 million of the funding will help Syrians who are still in Syria. The UK will continue to play a leading role in international development: the Government remains committed to spending 0.7 per cent of national income on development assistance, and to achieving the UN's Global Goals and ending extreme poverty by 2030. We can help developing countries leave aid dependency behind and become our trading partners of the future.
Withdrawing from the EU will give us the opportunity to shape our own international trade and investment opportunities, drive even greater openness with international partners and put Britain firmly at the forefront of global trade and investment. The Department for International Trade is working closely with counterparts across a wide range of markets in order to promote the UK as a great place to do business and with which to trade. The Government is taking advantage of all the opportunities available to us to ensure that Britain becomes the global leader in free trade once we leave the EU. Free trade has been absolutely central to the dramatic decline in world poverty over the last few decades. The number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen from 36 per cent in 1990 to 8 per cent today. More than 90 per cent of girls now complete primary education. Life expectancy rose during the twentieth century from 49 to 71. Free trade is the ultimate instrument of poverty alleviation, conflict resolution and social justice and the UK will be at the forefront of promoting it throughout the world in order to support all those less fortune than us.
Specifically on refugee children, Britain has a proud record of helping the most vulnerable children who are fleeing conflict and danger, and I know the Government is committed to upholding this fine tradition. That is why its response to the migrant crisis has been to establish resettlement schemes from the refugee camps in the region. This allows support to be targeted to the most vulnerable people affected by the crisis, while not creating a strong incentive for refugees to undertake the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean. In the year ending September 2016, the UK had granted asylum or another form of leave to over 8,000 children.
In full accordance with section 67 of the Immigration Act, the Government has announced it will transfer the specified number of 480 children, who reasonably meet the intention and spirit behind the provision. This number includes over 200 children already transferred under section 67 from France. It does not however include children transferred to UK where they have close family here.
The Dubs amendment was never meant to be an open ended scheme. The legislation obliged the Government to consult local authorities on their capacity to care for and support unaccompanied asylum-seeking children before arriving at this number. Local authorities informed the Government that they had capacity for around 530 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children until the end of this financial year. Similarly the Government estimated that at least 50 of the family reunion cases transferred from France as part of the Calais clearance will require a local authority placement in cases where the family reunion does not work out.
The UK will continue to work closely with our European partners to meet its obligations under the Dublin regulation and accept responsibility for processing asylum claims where the UK is determined to be the responsible member state, ensuring that it is in their best interests to come here. But if the Dubs scheme is continued into the next financial year the Government would be creating a semi-permanent scheme that would create an additional pull factor that will lead to more children taking the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean and put more children in the hands of unscrupulous people traffickers.
While the primary responsibility for unaccompanied children in Europe lies with the State in which they are present, an expert has been seconded to Greece in addition to the long-standing secondee in Italy to support efforts to identify children who may qualify for transfer to the UK. A £10 million Refugee Children Fund has been established for Europe to support the needs of vulnerable refugee and migrant children arriving. Since October 2015 the Department for International Development has been supporting child refugees in Greece with assistance such as food, clean water and safe shelter, as well as access to protection and psychosocial care, and in Italy the Department has provided assistance to unaccompanied minors and supported the deployment of child protection experts
We live in a stable and liberal democracy, we are one of the world's largest economies, we have a significant role in alleviating poverty, protecting vulnerable children and spreading free trade around the world.