I spoke at the ‘Solidarity with Refugees’ event outside the Scottish Parliament. The event was organised by Amnesty Scotland, Re:Act - Refugee Action Scotland, Refugee Survival Trust, East Lothian Welcomes Refugees, The Scottish Syrian Community and other organisations to show support for refugees here in Scotland.
We are currently witnessing the biggest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War and it is essential that Britain continues to help people fleeing conflict and persecution.
We all welcomed the Government's eventual commitment to resettle at least 20,000 refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war by 2020 and, following pressure from my colleagues in Parliament, to also resettle some unaccompanied child refugees who have family here in the UK.
However we are now 4 months on and very little has actually changed for these poor children. My colleague Lord Dubs states there are around 800 unaccompanied children in the Calais refugee camp alone, with 387 of them now eligible to come to the UK. Indeed, despite qualifying for asylum, all 387 have never been contacted by the Home Office and are still enduring terrible conditions in the Calais camp.
Recent reports coming out of Calais now document a serious deterioration of the situation in the camp. The accommodation for unaccompanied children is woefully inadequate and professionals have warned that we are losing, and will continue to lose these children to traffickers and criminal gangs. The lack of support for some of the most vulnerable humans on the planet is depressing. Of course, the blame cannot be pinned solely on the UK Government; France’s role in not providing safe accommodation for these children has been shameful and they must do more.
The UK Government must also devote more resources into actively seeking these children out and helping them through the family reunification process. My colleague Stella Creasy MP, who has been very active on this issue and has recently returned from Calais, tabled an amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill which would require child refugees in Calais to be treated as potential UK citizens and come under child protection requirements. This would mean there would be a panel responsible for each child, with an assigned guardian, to make decisions on their future welfare, health and education.
I have been contacted by hundreds of constituents on this issue, because of its importance, and I am providing periodical updates. If you would like to be added to the mailing list please send me a blank email with ‘refugee subscribe’ in the subject box.