UNICEF have added their voice to the call for the UK Government to more speedily honour their promise to help reunite refugee children with families already in the United Kingdom. They’re also running a petition to lobby the Home Secretary.
The unaccompanied refugee children of the Calais refugee camp are putting themselves in grave danger in a desperate attempt to get to the UK. Despite these children having the legal right to be in the UK, a recent survey of the camp shows they are risking their lives on average 2,110 times a week, stowing away in the back of lorries and jumping on trains, in a bid to reach their loved ones. If children not eligible for family reunion or resettlement are included, the number is significantly higher.
Ahead of the new Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s first Home Office questions, Unicef UK, Citizens UK and the British Red Cross called for the government to speed up the process to bring these children to the UK.
To date, only 100 children have been brought to the UK from Europe through the family reunification process in the Dublin III Regulation, 50 of whom were from Calais. There is also a real concern that the Dubs Amendment to the Immigration Act that came into force earlier this year – which was intended to resettle in the UK unaccompanied refugee children stranded in Europe – has not yet led to the UK offering refuge to any additional children.
In the blog post that accompanies the more formal press release, Unicef acknowledge that the UK is making some progress:
Four months ago there were no real plans to roll out family reunification in Greece or Italy. We now see that the first steps have been taken towards getting a system in place in Greece. A similar process is underway in Italy.
In Calais, the UK has committed to a communications campaign targeted at children in the camps to raise awareness of their right to be reunited with their family. From little direct negotiation, the UK is now having regular meetings with the French government to try to ensure that those children with a legal right to be in the UK are identified and processed as early as possible.
A Unicef petition invites signatures to support their call for the UK Home Secretary to speed up the process for reuniting unaccompanied children in Europe with their families in the UK; and to widen immigration laws to allow children to be with extended family members who can care for them.