The Church of England's leader the Archbishop of Canterbury has said he is "saddened and shocked" over the UK government's decision to take just 350 unaccompanied child refugees from Europe.

Justin Welby issued the intervention a day after Conservative immigration minister Robert Goodwill quietly disclosed the decision to the House of Commons in a written ministerial statement.

"Refugees, like all people, are treasured human beings made in the image of God who deserve safety, freedom and the opportunity to flourish. Jesus commands us to care for the most vulnerable among us," he said.

The government had promised to take the lone under-18s from the continent after Labour's Lord Alf Dubs, who came to the UK on the Kindertransport programme for Jewish children during the Second World War, led a campaign to take 3,000 of the unaccompanied children.

But ministers had not put a number on the amount of child refugees that UK would take until now. Home Secretary Amber Rudd was forced to defend the decision in the Commons after an urgent question from Home Affairs Committee chair Yvette Cooper.

The senior Conservative suggested that the Dubs scheme could encourage people traffickers. "I am clear that when working with my French counterparts they do not want us to indefinitely continue to accept children under the Dubs amendment because they specify, and I agree with them, that it acts as a draw," Rudd told MPs.

Cooper, a former Labour minister, branded the response as "completely inadequate".

She added: "Far from deterring traffickers, this decision to halt legal routes to sanctuary will encourage traffickers instead.

"By closing both the Dubs scheme and the fast track Dublin scheme for child refugees with family in Britain, at the same time as the French are closing some of their support, the government is pushing vulnerable children back into the arms of smuggler and trafficker gangs, and back into modern slavery."