Under UK law unaccompanied refugee children are entitled to come to the UK, either to be reunited with their families or to be taken into care by local authorities. However, despite their legal and humanitarian obligations the Government has not yet resettled a single child to the UK from France, Greece or Italy. That's why we are pressing the Government to take action now and tabling a Parliamentary amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill 2016, which would force the Secretary of State to publish a strategy for the safeguarding of unaccompanied refugee children in Europe.
The makeshift Calais camp is home to more than 10,000 people. Among them are over 1,000 unaccompanied children who are forced to share tents with strangers because there are no facilities or resources to properly care for them. Between August and September 2016, there has been a 51% increase in children arriving at the camp, with eleven being identified every day. These children, like others in Europe, are fleeing persecution and violence in their home countries such as Eritrea, Afghanistan, and the Sudan. When French authorities evicted part of the Calais camp earlier in 2016, 129 children went missing. They are all at risk of human trafficking, violence and abuse and of falling into crime.
Some unaccompanied refugee children have the right to come to the UK under a rule known as the Dublin III regulation, because of their close family links here. Others are eligible to come under an amendment to the Immigration Act 2016 put forward by Labour Peer, Alf Dubs, and agreed by Parliament in March 2016. This requires the government to arrange for the transfer to the UK and support of unaccompanied refugee children from Europe. As yet the government has yet to transfer a single child under this provision and has not set out how children can access this protection.
The French Government have now confirmed their intention to evict the Calais camp- including the Children's Centre- by the 31st October 2016. Reports from the camp speak of increasing unrest and violence in response to this deadline. The Home Office now has the paperwork for 387 children who volunteers believe have the right to be in the UK legally under either international law or the Dubs amendment but are in the camp in Calais. As yet no action for these children has been taken.
Labour MP for Walthamstow, Stella Creasy is working with colleagues in Parliament, to secure a cross-party amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill 2016, which is going through Parliament this autumn. The amendment would force the Secretary of State to publish a strategy for safeguarding unaccompanied refugee children in Europe and how they can access the protection of the original Dubs amendment. This new law is being called the "Dubs II" amendment. The aim is to ensure that all unaccompanied refugee children in Calais, and elsewhere in Europe, are brought to the UK under the Dublin III regulation and Dubs amendment. Once in the UK they would be assessed by local authorities under their child safeguarding duties.
By supporting this amendment, MPs and Lords can help force the Government to do the right thing- you can find out more about how to help this campaign here.