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Pete Lawrence - 16 Nov 2016


Britain is a caring and compassionate nation; we must play our part in the worst refugee crisis for over 60 years

A joint press release issued on behalf of Citizens UK, Calais Action, Refugee Action and Help Refugees has expressed severe condemnation of the Home Office's recently published Guidelines on how to apply the Dubs Amendment which was intended to bring unaccompanied refugee children from Europe to the UK.

Charities criticise Home Office for ban on teenage refugee transfers

Charities have today accused the Home Office of breaking its promises to vulnerable children by issuing guidance which bars most unaccompanied minors over the age of 12 from being brought to Britain. 

The guidance means that children as young as 13 and 14 from countries other than Syria and Sudan who lack family in the UK will be barred from being transferred to Britain. The Dubs amendment, passed by Lord Alf Dubs in April this year, committed the Government to taking 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees. Under international law, a child is defined as being younger than 18.

Reacting today after the new guidance became public, representatives from Citizens UK, Calais Action, Refugee Action and Help Refugees have strongly criticised the Home Office on these latest restrictions. The Home Office minister Robert Goodwill has come under pressure to explain why his department had issued eligibility rules excluding 16- and 17-year-olds, of all nationalities, for consideration for transfer to Britain under the Dubs amendment of the Immigration Act.

The organisations accuse the Home Office’s new guidance of being arbitrary, cruel and potentially illegal, and of creating an incentive for child refugees to run away from official centres in France and try to enter Britain illegally.

Theresa May has made protecting the most vulnerable in society an early hallmark of her premiership.

The criticism will add to pressure on the Home Office after cross-party MPs raised an urgent question in Parliament calling on the Government to explain the guidance. 

Yvette Cooper, chair of the Home Affairs committee, is quoted in The Guardian as saying: “I remember the debates on the Dubs amendment and we did not discuss ruling out 13-year-old and 14-year-old Eritreans on an arbitrary basis.”

Bishop Peter Hill, Citizens UK Leader, said: 

“We are concerned that the government’s decision to only take children from Syria and Sudan from Calais is a mistaken application of their intent to ensure that only children from refugee producing countries are admitted to the UK. It is clear that Eritrean minors, for example, should be assessed as hailing from a ‘refugee producing country’.
Citizens UK’s Safe Passage team estimates that 40% of children in the Calais camp at the time of the demolition were Eritrean or Afghan. If the Home Office applies this criteria to the children who are being considered for sanctuary in the UK, it will be impossible to meet the Home Secretary’s commitment to take “half” of the children from Calais.”

Tess Berry-Hart, Head of Advocacy of Calais Action, said:

“With the new Home Office Guidelines on the implementation of S67 of the Immigration Act, the UK is abandoning its moral and legal duty to safeguard unaccompanied minors, betraying both the spirit and the letter of the Dubs Amendment which makes no reference to age or country of origin. 
Minors were of the understanding that all claims would be considered during registering and boarding buses, which preceded the date of issue of the guidelines which only allow those of a certain age or specified nationalities above a certain age to be considered. 
With this trust broken, many very young unaccompanied minors of various nationalities will simply desert the CAOs and instead try dangerous and extreme routes to claim asylum in the UK.”

Stephen Hale, Chief Executive of Refugee Action, said: 

“We’re frankly appalled that the Government appears to be backtracking on its commitment to protect unaccompanied child refugees from Calais.
The new guidance will leave children at risk and denied their right to seek sanctuary in Britain simply because of their age or nationality. 
Members of the public, charities and MPs of all parties overwhelmingly supported new legislation aimed at protecting some of the vulnerable children left alone in Europe after fleeing conflict and persecution.
These new rules betray both the spirit and the letter of Lord Dubs’ amendment. The Government must amend this guidance and meet its responsibility to all unaccompanied child refugees, regardless of their nationality.
Britain is a caring and compassionate nation; we must play our part in the worst refugee crisis for over 60 years.” 

Josie Naughton, Co-Founder of Help Refugees, said: 

“The release of these criteria only continues to penalise some of the most vulnerable unaccompanied children in the crisis. 
These terms in no way put into place any kind of safety net for the children that this amendment was designed to protect. 
As a result children as young as 13 are just as at risk as they ever were. An Afghan child of this age is no less deserving of safeguarding than a Syrian one. 
We have equal responsibility to them all.”

If you have read this and are as angry as we are about the betrayal of the Dubs Amendment that we and so many others fought hard to produce, Campfire would suggest that you write to Amber Rudd and the Home Office demanding that they immediately amend their guidance on s67 of the Immigration Act 2016 so that it does not discriminate by age or nationality.


Photo Credit: © Rashad / Welcome to Our Jungle

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