26th Jan, 2020

Stratford MP Nadhim Zahawi defends criticism over refugee vote

STRATFORD MP Nadhim Zahawi has defended his vote to scrap protections for child refugees from the EU withdrawal agreement.

Parliament last week voted on whether to remove a clause from the withdrawal bill which legally bound ministers to strike a deal allowing unaccompanied refugee children in the EU to join relatives in the UK.

The option to remove the clause passed 348 votes to 252, prompting a backlash from opposition parties who feared it put refugee children at risk.

And in Stratford, constituents have hit out at the Iraqi-born MP, whose family fled to the UK when he was nine-years-old.

Liberal Democrat county councillor Dominic Skinner tweeted: “You (Mr Zahawi) often tell the story of how you were the son of refugees and how this great country offered you sanctuary and opportunity.

“Why now are you denying that to others children, forcing them toward smugglers and people traffickers?”

But Mr Zahawi insisted his party remained committed to reuniting refugee families.

He said: “Our position on child refugees has not changed and we remain fully committed to the principle of family reunion.

“A clause was removed from the Withdrawal Agreement Bill that had been added before the general election to frustrate the bill’s passage and bind the government’s negotiating position – something the last Parliament became renowned for doing. It has now been replaced with a new clause that requires the government to lay a statement before Parliament on its future policy regarding family reunification for unaccompanied children between the UK and the EU but does not bind its negotiating position.

“The correct place to deal with family reunification policy is specific legislation dedicated to this area, not an amendment to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

“In 2018, the UK received over 3,000 asylum claims from unaccompanied children, making the UK Europe’s third-highest intake country. In addition, in the year ending September 2019, 6,035 family reunion visas were issued to children and partners of those granted humanitarian protection or refugee protection in our country. I am hugely proud of these figures.”

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