There is currently a worrying number of unaccompanied child refugees that are in urgent need of support and safe entry into the UK. Many unaccompanied child refugees are left in vulnerable circumstances, exposed to harmful situations such as trafficking and abuse and this is unacceptable.
It is heart-breaking to hear that child refugees in Dunkirk, France, are living in “filthy camps, in rain-soaked flimsy tents” and exposed to sexual exploitation as they share camps with large groups of older men. The poor conditions in which these children live in and the increased police violence are pushing children into vulnerable situations, at the hands of those who wish to abuse and exploit them. Leaving any child to wait in such dire circumstances for safe sanctuary is shameful.
The UK government should be taking immediate action to facilitate more funding, legal and safe entries for children and give them the support they need. As a mother myself, I have to question those in power who would not even keep their own children in such conditions for one minute, let alone days on end. Why are these children’s lives any different?
Lord Alf Dubs and his charity Safe Passage along with many other charities had sent an open letter to PM Theresa May urging the government for more places and adequate funding under section 67. The legislation of section 67 of the Immigration Act was proposed by Lord Alf Dubs and came into action on May 12th 2016. This act gave unaccompanied refugee children who were living in camps, on the streets of Europe access to a legal route to safety in the UK and has been a life changing move in the law to help child refugees to safety.
According to Safe Passage ‘councils and foster carers across the country have welcomed over 220 children under section 67, while organisations on the ground in Europe have worked tirelessly to ensure children are able to access this legal route’. However, the British government have only given 480 spaces for child refugees to gain sanctuary in the UK and thousands of other children coming into the country as refugees are either still waiting or may not even get a place.
The Home Office had announced that they would increase funding towards the care of unaccompanied asylum seeking children, who are currently left in limbo, yet the funding has still not been put in place at the time of writing. Frustratingly, children are left to fend for themselves whilst we wait for the government to follow through on their promises.
The UK has the capacity to provide these children with safe sanctuary and it is the responsibility of the government and whoever comes into power after PM Theresa May leaves to ensure that justice is served. The situation we are facing now is an injustice of human rights, as every child should have a system of support in place to have their right to safety. Children cannot be left trapped by our immigration system waiting on a life line from the British government.
In addition, many child refugees in Calais and in the UK have been prevented from being reunited with their family members, causing more distress and upset for all those involved.
The UK government has failed in showing compassion and humanity for these children and if they don’t act now I fear that more children will fall victim to disastrous consequences. Some child refugees have come from war-torn countries, surviving bloodshed and losing their loved ones. These children should not have to face any more turmoil in order to gain safe sanctuary which is why it is imperative that the government acts immediately to ensure that these children are brought to safety. Every child deserves to have a safe place to live with support, love and stability and I hope that these children will not have to wait any longer for a chance to rebuild their lives.