Speaking for Ourselves

The UK is complicit in their vulnerability

The UK is complicit in their vulnerability


 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - The UK is complicit in their vulnerability

European Union action to tackle the refugee crisis has been described as "too little, too late” in a report by MPs, and nothing is littler and later than the British Government’s lack of urgency in fulfilling its promise to bring unaccompanied child refugees to the UK.

The offer was made reluctantly after action was demanded by MPs and Lords, as well as rare but welcome press pressure.

Later, the Home Office said it was involved in active discussions to speed up mechanisms to identify, assess and transfer children to the UK. Yes, other countries are involved. Yes, children have to be identified and their situation assessed before they are transferred. But this is a matter of humanity and urgency: we are talking about children on their own, sometimes in dangerous circumstances. The Daily Mirror reported that after the partial demolition of the Calais “Jungle” earlier this year, over 100 went missing. Overall some 10,000 unaccompanied refugee children in Europe are estimated to have disappeared. There have been several reports of sexual abuse and trafficking. The longer these children wait, the more vulnerable they become.

Some children have relatives in the UK, and for them the agony of upheaval is now compounded by the heart-rending knowledge that their disrupted, endangered children are within and yet out of reach. To delay reunion is to conflict inexcusable torture.

Keeping families separated has had a devastating effect on a number of Migrant Voice’s own members, as children are denied love and emotional support, and often cannot comprehend the politics of separation.

“Dad, where were you when I needed you?” said one child.

For parents and children it’s like a limb cut off.

The fear is that the government and officials are treating this as an administrative rather than a humanitarian issue. That is unacceptable, and with parliament and media both for once voicing concern and demanding action, government has no excuse, particularly as some local councils have said they are ready to host children: “We could take 10 of these kids,” one London council representative has said. Another, Stephen Cowan, the leader of the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, told the Mirror: “We are telling them [the Government] to give these kids to us but they’re looking the other way.”

Government is moving so slowly that some charities and local groups have tried to do some of the work in an effort speed up the process. Safe Passage, working through Citizens UK, took it on itself to make lists of children to present to the British and French governments.

Worse, some of those dragging their feet may be motivated by the idea that they are sending a message to refugee and migrants: Don’t come, you are not welcome, you’ll never get through the paperwork.

Politics, inertia, red tape are no excuse. These are children, not political pawns. The government must move quickly.