Archbishop Of Canterbury Slams Government As It Abandons Plans To Help Lone Child Refugees

The Archbishop of Canterbury has attacked the government's backtrack on its commitment to help thousands of lone refugee children in Europe.

The Most Rev Justin Welby joined other senior Church of England bishops in strongly criticising the move after just 350 children were welcomed to the UK, rather than the 3,000 expected.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby labelled the decision 'regrettable'.Reuters

In a forthright statement on Thursday, the leader of the CofE warned against the "worrying trends we are seeing around the world" and spoke out against "seeing the movement of desperate people as more of a threat to identity and security than an opportunity to do our duty".

He said: "We cannot withdraw from our long and proud history of helping the most vulnerable."

The Home Office's low key announcement on Wednesday said the scheme to resettle unaccompanied child refugees under Lord Dubs' amendment to the 2016 immigration bill would stop at the end of March.

Immigration minister Robert Goodwill said 200 children had arrived so far and another 150 would follow before the end of March. But he said no further places were available with local authorities.

In an unusual direct intervention Welby said he was "saddened and shocked" by the statement.

"Our country has a great history of welcoming those in need, particularly the most vulnerable, such as unaccompanied children," he said.

Announcing the end of the Dubs' programme Goodwill insisted the government had never committed to a figure and said it would always be dependent on the number of local authority places available.

But Welby joined the Bishop of Croydon, Rt Rev Jonathan Clark and others insaying the backtrack "does not meet the spirit of the commitment" given last year.

"To end the scheme now, when such a small proportion have actually entered the country, is regrettable," Welby said. "Local authorities, who are bearing the costs of the resettlement, must be given the resources and time needed to meet our original commitment."

Welby called on the government to reconsider and work with church groups to offer refugees sanctuary.