Government defeated as Christian peers vote to accept 3,000 child refugees

Peers have defied the government again after they voted to accept 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees from Europe.

The House of Lords voted in favour of an amendment to the Immigration Bill by 306 to 204 which would require the government to accept additional children, currently in Europe, into Britain.

Save the Children estimate there are 26,000 lone child refugees in Europe, 400 of whom are in Calais' Jungle campsReuters

The government has insisted on a policy of only accepting refugees from camps based in Syria and surrounding countries as it says they are the most vulnerable. However peers argued taking in 3,000 unaccompanied children from Europe would protect them from exploitation, people trafficking and abuse.

Labour's Lord Dubs, who tabled the amendment, arrived in the UK as a refugee on the famous Kindertransport, which helped children fleeing Nazi Germany travel to Britain.

"I would like other children who are in a desperate situation to be offered safety in this country and be given the same opportunities that I had," he told peers.

The Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell, who has a seat in the House of Lords, spoke in support of the amendment and said it was a "small but beautiful thing that we can do".

Tim Farron, the leader of the Liberal Democrats who is also a Christian, welcomed the Lords' vote and said it showed peers were more in touch with the public than the Prime Minister.

"The Government must stop ignoring the British people and the thousands of orphaned children languishing across Europe," he said.

"Cameron should show some humanity. A small sacrifice from a large nation would turn these kids' lives around.

"The Government must listen to this strong message from the Lords, it is time he stopped making excuses and did the right thing."

The Christian peer Lord Alton, who has campaigned against the persecution of Christians, also spoke in favour of the amendment.

The vote comes after extensive campaigns from charities including Home for Good and Save the Children who have called for the government to accept 3,000 unaccompanied children from Europe.

The government has agreed to accept 20,000 refugees by 2020 but only from camps in the Middle East. In response to the amendment, government home office minister Lord Bates said the move could encourage more to risk "lethal" journeys across the Mediterranean.

"We have a principled objection. That the people most at risk are in the region," he said.

"I question whether it [the amendment] identifies, or provides help, for the right people. We believe we should not be doing anything that encourages one child to make that perilous journey."

The Immigration Bill will now return to the House of Commons where MPs will consider the amendment before a vote to decide whether it becomes law.