LONDON -- Britain’s Conservative government has placed a limit on the number of lone child refugees it will accept into the country, citing fears that people traffickers were exploiting the system.
About 350 children will be allowed in - far fewer than the 3,000 originally expected under the law that had been aimed at helping some of the tens of thousands of migrant children across Europe. Around 200 children have been brought in thus far.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Thursday that the decision was made after France raised concerns that U.K. government actions were acting as a draw to encourage children to make the perilous journey to the continent.
“We are not saying we are closing the door, we are putting up the drawbridge,” she said. “We are not saying that.”
The move is controversial because Britain has taken in so few of the hundreds of thousands of refugees that have flowed into Europe in recent years, many fleeing the war in Syria.
Lawmakers in the House of Commons accused Rudd of trying to more closely align the country with President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Syria, a move that has sparked protests in the U.S. and abroad.
“Is this what comes of cozying up to President Trump?” asked Joanna Cherry of the Scottish National Party.
Opposition lawmakers also accused Britain’s Home Office of trying to sneak through the changes on Wednesday, when lawmakers were debating the highly charged bill that will allow Prime Minister Theresa May to trigger Britain’s departure from the 28- nation European Union.
The law was named after Alf Dubs, himself a refugee.
Dubs was one of hundreds of Czechoslovakian children, most of them Jewish, saved from the Nazis by stockbroker Nicholas Winton, who has been nicknamed “Britain’s Schindler.”
Winton rescued 669 children by putting them on trains to the U.K. and helping them escape Nazi-occupied Europe on the eve of World War II.
Winton’s daughter, Barbara, wrote an open letter for the child refugees of today to be treated with similar compassion.
“Donald Trump’s refugee ban echoes the terrible failures of the human spirit that, on the eve of the Second World War, saw country after country close its borders to Jewish refugees in urgent need of protection,” she wrote. “My father Sir Nicholas Winton knew that each and every one of us share in a responsibility to our fellow men and women, a responsibility to offer sanctuary those fleeing persecution.”