Citizens UK’s Safe Passage programme welcomes the news that 14 unaccompanied children will be reunited with their families in the UK from Calais today by the government, with many more expected to arrive in the coming days ahead of the demolition of the camp. Previously family reunification for unaccompanied children in Calais has fallen to voluntary groups such as Citizens UK, who have reunited 60 children from Calais with family in the UK since March. Whilst welcoming today’s progress, Citizens UK will be working to hold the Government to its commitment to transfer all children eligible for family reunion ahead of demolition, and warns that we must not forget about the many Dubs-eligible children in this process.
Many of the children transferred today and in the coming days will be children supported through the Safe Passage programme, all of whom have family waiting for them in the UK. Citizens UK will be assisting the government with the transfers and its volunteers from faith groups across the country have been engaged by the Home Office to help with the registration and transition of the children.
Commenting on the arrivals, Juliet Stevenson, actress and campaigner, said:
“Today is a proud moment for Britain. We did the right thing. The arrival of hundreds of vulnerable children from Calais to the UK in the coming days is in no small part due to the tireless campaigning of community leaders, the hard work of Citizens UK’s lawyers, and the Safe Passage team in Calais who have been working to safeguard children for over a year. Many children will sleep safely in warm beds tonight but in the coming days we must make sure every last child with a right to sanctuary here is brought to safety.”
Citizens UK has still not been made aware of how children from Calais eligible for transfer to the UK under the Dubs scheme will be identified, and how many of those will be brought to the UK. These are children who are particularly vulnerable and have no family in the UK. It appears that no system has been put in place to register and assess these children, despite assurances from Home Secretary Amber Rudd last week that the UK would take children who qualify under the Dubs scheme.
Commenting on the first transfers of the children Lord Alf Dubs said:
"In the coming days Citizens UK’s Safe Passage team will be working round the clock to ensure that all children with a legal right to sanctuary in the UK are brought to safety. This includes the children eligible under the Dubs amendment, for whom there is still no official process in place. No child must be left behind in the chaos of demolition."
"Looking ahead we must never allow a repeat of Calais. The Government must learn lessons from this situation and realise that it has a duty to make the Dublin mechanism work across Europe, as well as establishing a clear procedure for children without family eligible for sanctuary under the Dubs amendment."
Citizens UK is also commencing legal proceedings against the government for failing to introduce an actual process to facilitate the transfer of child refugees under the Dublin 3. There is no functioning state system and what system there is, is currently almost entirely dependent on private actors. The Home Office has been given until Tuesday to respond.
Interviews are available, contact Charlotte Morris at Citizens UK on 07967818064.
Dubs and Dublin 3 explainer
Dublin 3 – existing law which governs EU asylum claims. States you should claim asylum in first EU country you reach. However, there is a clause by which if you are a minor and have close family in another EU country, you can apply to be with them while your asylum claim is considered.
Dubs – new amendment to the Immigration Act, brought by Lord Alf Dubs and passed in May, states that the UK will take “vulnerable unaccompanied child refugees” already in EU before 20 March (date of EU-Turkey deal). So not those with UK family, but they have to be on their own and from a recognised country where they are fleeing conflict (so for example Afghanistan, but not Tunisia), or under 13, or a girl, or an orphan.
Citizens UK and the Safe Passage programme
Citizens UK is the national home of community organising – a network of over 350 faith groups, schools and colleges that work together for the common good. They have been campaigning on the Syrian crisis for over 18 months and created www.refugees-welcome.org.uk to help coordinate the public’s response.
So far Citizens UK efforts to persuade councils to participate in resettling Syrian refugees have persuaded 44 councils to offer 3,097 places. They’ve identified 700 private landlords who are offering properties, persuaded a dozen universities to offer £3.5 million of scholarships for refugees and successfully challenged the Prime Minister to resettle at least 1,000 people before Christmas.
Safe Passage is a programme of Citizens UK, the programme is focussed on setting up a process so that those who have a good legal right to claim asylum in the UK may do so. For more information see www.safepassage.org.uk