“The children of today are watching the way in which the country they call home responds to the needs of these children”

Churches and faith groups across Britain and Ireland are sometimes criticised for the lack of bite to their criticism of at worst apathetic and at lethargic response to the refugee crisis inside Europe’s borders.

In a blog post for the Joint Public Issues Team website, Grace Pengelly pulls no punches when she writes:

I wonder how many British children watched the news about the Calais refugee camp last night? How many nine and ten year olds sat with their parents, and quietly absorbed the reality that children, just like them, but without parents, have been removed from the ‘Jungle’ in Calais – a mere 20 miles away from the UK coast. The children of today are watching the way in which the country they call home responds to the needs of these children.

She added:

When Europol reports that 10,000 children have gone missing in Europe over the past two years – can we simply tell our children that this is a tragedy that will never happen to them? Or do we need to acknowledge that the international community, which was so outraged by the death of a little boy called Alan just one year ago, has consistently failed to speed up the family reunification processes that could prevent such ‘tragedies’ from happening.

It is unclear what the future holds for the children of the ‘Jungle’; 200 of the estimated 1,300 unaccompanied children that agencies on the ground are aware of have been processed and brought over to the UK. Those not so fortunate were made to stay overnight in shipping containers as the destruction of the Jungle took place. Yesterday Save the Children reported that there are still unaccompanied young girls in the camp, who remain highly vulnerable.

In an urgent statement to the House of Commons on Monday, the UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd said:

“Through this process it is important we do not encourage more children to head to Calais, risking their lives in the hands of traffickers. That’s why we will only consider those present in the camps before the start of clearances of the operation today.”

Safe passage as well as efficient and trusted asylum processing could eliminate the opportunity for traffickers as well and remove many other dangers from the journeys taken by young and old, unaccompanied and those in family groups.

The Home Secretary added that in the last week “800 children in the camp claiming to have close family in the UK” had been interviewed.

“But we will continue to do this quickly, but it is essential that we carry out the proper safeguarding, age assessment and security checks, working closely with local authorities and social workers here in the UK, to ensure that the children are eligible, and that it is in their best interests to come.”