Update on Calais children (from Safe Passage):
As a result of the tremendous political pressure generated by Citizens UK members, welcome groups, activists and volunteers across the UK – over 300 children were successfully transferred to the UK in the demolition period of the Calais ‘Jungle’.
This included the first children to benefit from the new route created by the ‘Dubs’ amendment to the Immigration Act back in May.
During this transfer window hundreds of supporters turned out to welcome the children off the coaches in the UK and over 30 Citizens UK volunteers a day were working inside Lunar House, receiving the arriving children and accompanying them through their first interviews with the Home Office in the UK.
However, in the last few weeks transfers have ground to a halt. Children were initially moved into container units on the site of the Calais camp, but after the appalling conditions were highlighted it was decided that children would be transferred by coach to over 60 temporary accommodation centres across France. Citizens UK worked closely with the Home Office throughout this period to encourage children to leave the container units on the basis that they would be properly assessed on arrival for eligibility to transfer to the UK under Dublin and Dubs.
Many children have said that they still have not seen a Home Office official since they arrived. Others report their friends have already run away having lost hope, and all are deeply anxious.
Worse still, the Government has slipped out guidance that seeks to severely limit access to the ‘Dubs’ route. This has led to an angry row in Parliament, with MPs telling the Immigration Minister that the Government was betraying the spirit in which the Dubs amendment was debated and passed.
Recent developments show how important it is for us to keep up the pressure on the Home Office to transfer as many children as possible before Christmas.
During the demolition the Home Secretary said that she thought it would be a good result if the UK ultimately took in ‘half’ of the children in the camp. At the time, it was thought the total number was perhaps 1200, however we now know that figure was closer to 2000.
That’s why we have agreed that we should be pushing the Home Secretary to deliver on her original commitment for Britain to take in ‘half’ of the children – amounting to a pledge of sanctuary for 1000 children from the Calais camp. Given the 95,000 unaccompanied children who entered Europe last year, 1000 children in total from the Calais ‘jungle’ seems like a small responsibility for Britain to meet.
We now have less than two weeks to bring 600 refugee children in from France to make sure they have a safe place to go by Christmas.
Please write to your MP or directly to Amber Rudd to urge for the promise made to be kept! Please find a letter template to the Home Secretary, below.
Download a draft letter to the Home Secretary here.
You can find out more about the Citizens UK campaign here and visit the Safe Passage website here (Citizens UK’s Safe Passage programme has just been chosen by the Guardian and Observer Christmas charity appeal).
Please do also join our candlelight vigil for refugee children at Brecon Cathedral at 6pm tonight. You can find out more information here.