Campaign charity Safe Passage has revealed shameful statistics regarding the Home Office’s treatment of child refugees, stating that over 1,400 offers from local councils across the UK to provide safe housing has been shrugged off by the Home Office.
Many fear for the future when it comes to vulnerable asylum-seeking children and young people making their way to the UK. Despite having suffered and witnessed unthinkable crimes against humanity in their home countries, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party have already axed a clause that had sought to solidify family reunification in the latest Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
In true Dickensian Christmas Carol spirit, on day dot of Johnson’s newly formed office, his Government met in Parliament to strip away legal protections for child refugees just mere days before Christmas. Now, the Home Office has turned its back from supporting local councils in their ambition to provide homes for child refugees.
These highly vulnerable youngsters will only be left high and dry by the new Tory-majority Government
Safe Passage detail that councils including Wiltshire, Leicestershire, Brighton and Hove as well as the London boroughs of Islington, Hammersmith and Fulham and Lewisham all agreed to house a minimum of 100 child refugees in their respective parts of the country. Birmingham and Bristol are also among the major cities which have agreed to home refugee children with 80 and 60 more spaces for minors on offer. Pledges have been confirmed through the Home Office’s Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme (VCRS) as long as funding is accessible. However, councils are concerned that central government finances are being held back and that the number of arrivals is “pitifully low to nonexistent”.
Although the UK Government say it ‘intends‘ on protecting child asylum seekers, there are little proposals on how this will be put in motion. Activists and campaigners alike now fear for the worst: that these highly vulnerable youngsters will only be left high and dry by the new Tory-majority Government.
A previous amendment implemented through the work of Lord Alf Dubs, a former child refugee who fled Jewish persecution during WWII, ensured legal protection to young refugees by ensuring ministers had to work with the European Union to assist unaccompanied child refugees in the UK if they already had relatives in the country.
With a heavy heart, Lord Dubs criticised the new omission, saying: “We’re talking about children and young people who had some hope of a decent life with their relatives. We know there are at least several hundreds of children in these conditions. It’s mean spirited and nasty.”
Lisa Nandy, Labour MP for Wigan, called the move “a direct attack on some of the most vulnerable children in the world”, predicting the callous move will extend to attacks on welfare and disability.
Labour’s Barry Gardiner, Shadow Trade Secretary, added: “the power of a large majority reveals the true values of this Government. Why else legislate to stop refugee children being united with their families?”
“Why else legislate to stop refugee children being united with their families?”Barry Gardiner, Shadow Trade Sec
Estimated figures reveal that there are approximately 200 children stranded in horrendous conditions in Northern France, and thousands more scattered across Italy and Greece. Some will be far from their families, alone and forced to live in squalor and defend themselves from camp violence. Many are eligible to resettle in the UK, but few are actually making it to sanctuary.
The Dubs amendment was launched in April 2016 with hopes around 3,000 children would be settled in the UK – but ministers have since introduced a cap of 480. No official figures have been given as of yet in regard to how many children have already benefitted from the scheme, but the Government must answer as to why this limit has been imposed and fast. There is an enormous disparity between the two figures and no justification for such a dramatic change.
Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais, stated:
“It’s become absolutely horrible, I do not understand how it can be this hostile, how our country can behave like this, how they keep saying no to this.”