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  1. ITV Report

Petition urges Government to keep taking child refugees

Calls for the Prime Minister to continue providing a safe haven for unaccompanied child refugees has intensified after a petition was handed in at Downing Street.

Labour peer Lord Dubs arrived at Number 10 with a mass petition signed by almost 45,000 people urging against the closure of a scheme to bring lone minors into the UK.

Lord Dubs had pressured Whitehall officials into creating an amendment to the Immigration Act in 2016, known as the Dubs amendment.

However on Wednesday it was announced the scheme was to be closed.

I was shocked and in disbelief, I couldn't believe the Government could back off in quite that way.

We want the Government to change their minds. The Government have said they don't want to take more than 350 in total under the amendment, I think that's a very shabby cop out.

I believe that there are thousands of unaccompanied child refugees suffering greatly in Greece, Italy and some in France, the Government has said no more and I think that is an abdication of their responsibilities, it goes against public opinion and it goes against parliamentary opinion.

– Labour peer Lord Dubs
Syrian children play in the snow at an informal refugee camp in Lebanon. Credit: AP

The Government's decision to scrap the programme - which was expected to facilitate some 3,000 youngsters - has been met with fierce criticism.

Among those against the move was the Archbishop of Canterbury who said that halting the initiative would see more children killed, exploited and trafficked.

The Most Rev Justin Welby said he was "saddened and shocked" at the announcement, adding it was "deeply unjust" to place the burden of caring for the children on Italy and Greece - who are already catering for thousands of refugees and migrants from the Middle East and north Africa.

Syrian refugee Nourshan Mohammed, 4, is pictured at a refugee camp in Greece. Credit: AP

However despite the expected influx of thousands, just 150 children have joined the 200 who have already arrived on British soil.

Lord Dubs, a former refugee, was met at Downing Street by campaigners, local politicians and faith leaders.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said British and French authorities were concerned the scheme was acting as a "pull factor" for children to be drawn to the UK and providing an opportunity for people smugglers.