The French government has confirmed that the eviction of the Calais camp will take place by the 31st of October. There are an estimated 1,022 unaccompanied children living in the Calais ‘Jungle’, some as young as 8 or 9 years old. At least 387 children have a legal right to seek sanctuary in the UK. Last time part of the camp was demolished, more than a hundred children went missing and it is not known what happened to them. We must take action now, before it’s too late.
Why do these unaccompanied children have a right to be in the UK?
Either under the Dublin Regulations (Dublin III): under these regulations, asylum seekers must make an initial asylum claim in the first EU state they reach, but can apply for asylum in other EU states if they have family there.
- 175 unaccompanied children currently in Calais have nuclear family members living in the UK and are therefore eligible to be in the UK.
- Fewer than 100 children have been reunited with families via Safe Passage (a project of the Citizens UK Charity).
- It takes 10-11 months on average to bring a child to the UK under Dublin III, with reasons including bureaucracy and staff shortages.
- At least three children who had a legal right to join family in the UK have died trying to make their own way while waiting for their cases to proceed and wanting to escape the abhorrent living conditions in the Calais camp.
Or under the Alf Dubs amendment: an amendment to the Immigration Act, which was passed in May 2016. It was put forward by Lord Dubs and requires the government to arrange for the transfer of an unspecified number of the most vulnerable unaccompanied children in Europe to safety in the UK.
- The government has yet to transfer a single child under the amendment and has also not yet set out how children can access this protection.
- 212 children have been registered by teams working with young people in Calais. Citizens UK have submitted the list to the Home Office.
- Working across political parties, Stella Creasy MP is proposing the Dub II law – an amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill, which will force the government to protect these children. 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. This will be debated on two days in the House of Lords (with the first date set for October 18th 2016) and will then come to the House of Commons for approval.
The children are fending for themselves and being exposed to disease, trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse. Winter is approaching. We need to urge the government to expedite the relocation process and uphold the promises made. Delays are costing lives.
What can we do?
- Please write to your MP to support the Dubs II amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill. You can do so online here. A template for correspondence can be seen below.
- Please consider making a donation to Safe Passage UK (a programme powered by Citizens UK, which is working to establish safe legal routes for unaccompanied refugee children in Calais) or Help Refugees (the donation would, for example, go towards paying for mobile phone credit so the children can keep in touch with the charity if they are evicted).
- Please contact members of the House of Lords to ask them to support the Dubs II amendment – you can find further information here and House of Lords members on Twitter can be seen here. Please note that the Children and Social Work Bill will be debated in the House of Lords on two days: the first being Tuesday 18th October and the second to be announced.
- Sign a petition:
- The Citizens UK petition Protect the Children of Calais: Bring the 387 Home.
- The Alf Dubs petition Britain must not turn its back on child refugees in Europe (note: the deadline is October 26th 2016 and at the time of writing, it stands at 81,342 signatures – at 100,000 signatures, the petition will be considered for debate in Parliament).
- Protest: there are demonstrations taking place in Cardiff (further information here) as well as London (further information here) on Saturday the 15th of October.
- Raise awareness and keep updated on developments e.g. by joining the Citizens UK Child Refugee Campaign Facebook Group.
Suggested text for your letter or email (from Help Refugees)
As my MP I’m writing to you to ask you to pledge to safeguard child refugees in Europe.
The Dubs Amendment was passed by parliament in March 2016- it committed us to taking our fair share of the refugee children in Europe who have fled persecution. Yet six months on not a single child has come here under its protection – now there are over 1000 children alone in the Calais camp, which the French Government has said it will evict by the end of October 2016. These children live in tents with strangers, begging for food and hiding from traffickers for want of someone to process their paperwork. The French asylum system has ground to a halt- without action by the UK these children face a very uncertain future.
The Home Office currently has the paperwork for 387 children currently in the Calais refugee camps who have the right to be in the UK legally under either international law or the Dubs amendment. That’s why a cross party group of MPs has tabled the Dubs II amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill to require the Government to put in place a safeguarding process for these children and so protect their welfare. This will be debated in the Lords in October 2016 and will then come to House of Commons for approval.
There is not a moment to lose in the fight to protect these children. When the French evicted part of the camp earlier this year, 100 children went missing. With your help we can ensure these children have a better future. Please let me know if you will pledge your support for this campaign- or let the office of Stella Creasy MP know if you wish to cosign this amendment.
Thank you for your support for this important campaign.
Sources and Further Information
- Help Refugees: www.helprefugees.org.uk/news/help-unaccompanied-children-calais/
- Stella Creasy: www.workingforwalthamstow.org.uk/_dubs_ii_how_you_can_help_safeguard_child_refugees and www.workingforwalthamstow.org.uk/dubs_ii_background_briefing_how_can_we_safeguard_child_refugees
- BBC: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-37528227 and www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37609973
- Red Cross: www.redcross.org.uk/About-us/News/2016/October/Red-tape-leaves-refugee-children-stranded-in-Calais-Jungle
From: Hay, Brecon & Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees
To: Chris Davies MP (Brecon and Radnorshire)
Sent: 02 October 2016
Subject: Please do what you can to help the unaccompanied children in Calais.
Dear Mr Davies,
I am the secretary of Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for refugees which was formed a year ago and is affiliated to City of Sanctuary (one of the Guardian’s Christmas charity appeal beneficiaries) and Refugees Welcome,a group linked to the campaigning group Citizens UK. I am copying in Sean,our chair and Sally,our vice chair and Bishop John who is a keen supporter.
We now have over 300 supporters on our mailing list and similar numbers following us on Twitter and Facebook. Our activities mainly revolve around providing ” respite days” for people seeking asylum and refuge based in Swansea. These events give them a chance to experience our beautiful countryside and benefit from the hospitality of local communities. They have been enormously grateful and their feedback (saying things such as ‘its a day I can forget all my worries for a while and feel human’) has made our local group determined to continue these happy gatherings where the local people have been particularly generous with their time,food and gifts. I have attended all 14 of these days held in places from Llangenny to Hay to Craig y Nos and also facilitated people volunteering at Hay festival and being involved in writers workshops. Members of our group have volunteered in Calais and in Cardiff, Newport and Swansea. We are in no doubt that this has been mutually beneficial both for our recipients but also for us to better understand the circumstances that caused these people to leave home and undertake life threatening journeys to come to our country. Our work with local schools involving children in our days out has allowed them to see the people are not a political problem but flesh and blood like them.
Our group has been collecting and sending clothes and other necessities to Swansea and other groups in need including the “Jungle” in Calais as well as fundraising and raising awareness. Our local supermarkets have also been very supportive in allowing us to have end of line or short dated goods to share with people seeking asylum or refuge. The public have been enormously generous donating in excess of £10,000 and this has been used to help fund the days, to help with particular hardship and to support other charities working with people seeking refuge.
I write in the hope that you could highlight our good work and the need for more enlightened policies on detention, provision of English teaching and consider the case for allowing some meaningful employment so people are not just receiving handouts but are allowed to work for them and most importantly, at this time, raising the issue of unaccompanied children in Europe by (a) asking an oral question to 1. Home Office, 2. Dept for International Development, 3. Wales Office, 4. Business Questions; (b) written questions to appropriate Departments.
I want you to know how much support your constituents continue to give our work and you would be very welcome to drop in on any of our events and I am attaching list of upcoming dates. Please spare us a few minutes of your busy time.
One issue is giving our members a great deal of concern at present .There are a large number of unaccompanied children on the Continent with family in Britain who could support them. Without that support they are greatly at risk of being forced into prostitution and modern day slavery. I know that the Prime Minister is very concerned about slavery. If these children could be reunited with their families in this country then their future could be safeguarded. Please could you raise this in Parliament?
In particular we are concerned for the many hundreds of unaccompanied children in Calais who are in in great danger in the light of the French Government’s decision to close the ‘Jungle’ camp. When part of it was cleared earlier this year many children disappeared amidst fears they had been trafficked to unscrupulous people.
Finally, could I thank you and the Government for providing safety for refugees from Syria? Some of those are now housed in Ystradgynlais and settling in well. We have been involved in informal English classes with 3 of the families and the local community have been very supportive.
I and members of our group would be delighted to meet with you to discuss any of the issues we have raised. The enclosed photos from the last 2 months show some of our venues and activities.
MB BS FRCP
From: Chris Davies MP (Brecon and Radnorshire)
Date: Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Subject: Please do what you can to help the unaccompanied children in Calais.
To: Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees
Thank you for your e-mail regarding the Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary. It is good to hear from you.
From reading your e-mail it is clear to see the passion and commitment you and the group have shown to help refugees. I commend you for your hard-work in providing respite days – these must involve a great deal of work and it must take up a great deal of your free time.
I believe the very best way to help refugees is to try to make it so that there is no need for people to become refugees in the first place. We should be doing all we can to help to end the wars in Syria and Yemen to ensure that a political solution can prevent any further atrocities. I am certain that the Government is doing all it can to bring about peace in the region and allow the people of these nations to prosper in that peace.
Regarding the issue of unaccompanied children, the Government began work to implement the Lord Dubs amendment immediately after the Immigration Bill gained Royal Assent. Since then the Government has been working to transfer children who met the criteria in the Immigration Act, and I am very glad that some have already arrived in the UK and started new lives.
I have been assured by the Government that it continues to work with the French, Greek and Italian authorities and others to speed up existing family reunification processes or implement new processes where necessary for unaccompanied children. A UK official has been seconded to Greece, there is a long-standing secondee working in Italy and the Government, having established a permanent official level contact group, will be seconding another UK expert to the French Interior Ministry.
A dedicated team has also been established in the Home Office Dublin Unit to lead on family reunion cases for unaccompanied children. Transfer requests under the Dublin Regulation are now generally processed within 10 days and children transferred within weeks. Over 120 children have been accepted for transfer this year from Europe.
The management of asylum claims and the protection of unaccompanied children in Calais is primarily a matter for the French authorities. A French non-government organisation, France Terre D’Asile has been charged with identifying isolated children with UK links. Both Governments are clear that unaccompanied children in Calais in need of protection should claim asylum in France. The UK will consider requests to take responsibility of an asylum application made in France when lodged by a minor with close family connections in the UK, and both Governments are committed to ensuring such cases are prioritised.
There has been intense cooperation between the UK and French authorities to improve the operation of the Dublin process. Since the beginning of the year out of the 120 children who have been accepted for transfer from Europe under the Dublin family reunion provisions, 70 were from France.
You are right that we must focus on protecting innocent children, and that is precisely what the Government’s refugee policy is doing. For example, in the year ending June 2016, 49 per cent of those resettled under the Syrian Vulnerable Person’s Resettlement Scheme were under 18 years old. The Home Office has also announced a new scheme to resettle vulnerable children from the Middle East and North Africa region, working closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in designing this scheme.
Do keep me updated on the work of your group and thank you, once again, for your e-mail.
Chris Davies MP
Member of Parliament for Brecon and Radnorshire