It was back in April 2016 when the UK Government bowed to pressure and and agreed to work with the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) to resettle children and adults from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. At that time Save the Children estimated that there were 26,000 lone children across Europe, 400 of whom were living the Calais ‘jungle’.
At the beginning of August the Migration Crisis report from the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee published even more shocking figures:
Europol estimates that there are 85,000 unaccompanied minors amongst the migrant population in the EU. We were astonished to hear reports that large numbers of these children go missing from reception centres shortly after arrival and that they then face abuse, sexual assault and discrimination. At least 10,000 minors are estimated to have gone missing since arriving in Europe.
The committee of MPs agreed “with the Bishop of Durham that the 157 unaccompanied children already in Calais who have family members in the UK ‘should already have arrived’ in the UK” and recommended that “the Government should, as a one-off action, accept all of these children into the UK now”.
While the Home Office says it plans to transfer 150 children this year, campaigners gathered outside the London government department’s headquarters today to “urge ministers to immediately bring over those children stranded in the sprawling migrant camp” according to a BBC News report.
The group handed over a list of 387 refugee children living in the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp who they say are eligible to be transferred to the UK. While the image of the drowned three-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi brought the refugee crisis onto front pages and into the public consciousness this time last year, progress has been slow to react to the living conditions of refugee children in Calais and beyond.
They say a further 209 are eligible under an immigration provision known as the Dubs Amendment. [BBC]
The Labour Peer, Lord Dubs, who introduced the amendment to the Immigration Act earlier this year, said:
“I am deeply saddened that despite repeated calls from me and others, the government still seems to be dragging its feet on the commitments it made when the amendment in my name was accepted.”
A Home Office spokesperson explained:
“We are in active discussions with the UNHCR, other partner organisations and the Italian, Greek and French governments to strengthen and speed up mechanisms to identify, assess and transfer unaccompanied refugee children to the UK where this in their best interests.”