The UK will offer safety to more unaccompanied refugee children, the Government has announced.
The UK has asked the UN’s Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to identify Syrian unaccompanied children currently living in the Middle East and other conflict zones who could benefit from resettlement. It is unclear how many children will be offered safe haven, but this scheme will be in addition to the Government’s pledge to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020.
The Government has rejected calls to offer safe haven to 3,000 unaccompanied children who have made the perilous journey to Europe and who are living in dangerous situations across the continent.
However, the UK has promised to allow children in Europe with relatives here to finally realise their rights to be allowed to join them in the UK while their claims for asylum are examined.
While existing European rules in theory already allow this to happen, they are rarely implemented, leaving children desperate to join their loved ones with little option than to undertake a risky march of misery across the continent to try and reach them.
The Refugee Council has long called for these rules to be properly utilised to prevent refugees from being forced into such dangerous journeys and is now calling for their speedy implementation.
Refugee Council Head of Advocacy Dr Lisa Doyle welcomed the move, saying: “Children who are travelling alone in Europe are vulnerable to succumbing to freezing temperatures, abuse and exploitation. It’s vital the Government acts as quickly as possible to bring families together in order to prevent the unnecessary risk and hardship experienced by those currently forced to make treacherous journeys to reach their loved ones.”
Despite this step forward, the Refugee Council is concerned that the Government is still refusing to help share responsibility for protecting the men, women and children arriving on Europe’s shores – a deliberate failure to acknowledge the fact that these refugees are fleeing the same atrocities as those the Government is choosing to resettle and are also in dire need of protection.
The Refugee Council is calling for Britain to voluntarily step forward and show leadership in its approach to the refugee crisis by offering to help protect some of the refugees arriving in Europe, as well as by establishing alternative routes to safety for those fleeing for their lives.