By Lauren Dorling
Colchester MP Will Quince defied party lines to vote in favour of accepting 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees after impassioned arguments caused him to have a change of heart.
After what he deemed “powerful speeches” in the Commons, Quince was persuaded to support Lord Dubs’ amendment to the Immigration Bill, saying “I am not too proud to say that I changed my mind.”
He initially opposed the suggestion, which called on the UK to offer sanctuary to the child refugees who had already made the journey to Europe.
In a statement released on Facebook before the Monday night debate, he said that while he was sympathetic to what the Labour peer was trying to achieve, he felt it was important to act with “our heads as well as with our hearts.”
He expressed concern that opening the borders to the children would “justify the existence of people smugglers and encourage more vulnerable people to jump in boats and cross the Mediterranean.”
“The loss of life is becoming too frequent. As such, I am afraid I cannot support this amendment,” he wrote in the post.
Quince also pointed out that the government already has a system in place which allows child refugees with family members in the UK to apply for asylum in order to be reunited with them.
He apologised for his stance, but remained resolute at the time, saying: “I fear that our efforts to be more humane would risk the loss of more life, something which I cannot support.”
Following the Commons debate, however, Quince told his followers that he now backs the amendment.
He said speeches by Labour MP Keir Starmer and Conservative MP Stephen Phillips, one of only five Tory MPs to support the amendment, led him to rethink his vote.
He told Essex Journalism that he is still worried nonetheless. “My concerns remain, in particular that our acting may act as a pull factor and encourage some to make the perilous journey across the Med.”
Lord Dubs’ amendment was rejected 294 to 276, but Quince does not think the issue has been put to bed.
“I think the Lords will send a further amendment back, maybe as soon as next week. I hope the amendment can be tweaked to be more acceptable to Conservative MPs.”
The government recently announced that it will take 3,000 children on top of the 20,000 refugees it already pledged to resettle. The scheme, which excludes children who are already in Europe, will see several hundred ‘at risk’ and unaccompanied children from the Middle East and North Africa resettled over the next year, with the target to be reached by 2020