The Children’s Commissioner for England today published a report, ‘Landing in Dover’ (17 January) which includes shocking findings into the care of unaccompanied children when they arrive in the UK – this includes the ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement’ between the UK and France which resulted in children, including victims of trafficking, being returned to France and their safety and welfare being disregarded. Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:
“We are very relieved that as a result of this welcome report, the disgraceful ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement’ that has long put the wellbeing and safety of children at risk of harm and exploitation, has now been put to an end. The report has shone a light on the lengths our government is prepared to take in order to pass the responsibility for children arriving here back to other countries.
“Many of these children will not only have fled horrifying situations in their own countries, but will have undertaken hugely traumatic journeys to reach safety in the UK. They need time and support to recover as well as access to legal support before they make their claim for asylum, and it is unjust to expect them to fully explain why they need protection here so soon after arrival. We urge the government to heed the recommendations to improve the screening system for children when they arrive, not just in Dover but in ports across the UK, to ensure children seeking safety in this country are properly supported, in line with our international obligations to protect children in our care.”
Children’s Commissioner report, ‘Landing in Dover’