The Government has announced it will take in more unaccompanied Syrian child refugees. The Home Office will work with the UN's Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to identify "exceptional cases" of lone children from Syria and other conflict zones whose "best interests would be met through protection in the UK". But it is unclear how many extra children from Europe will be offered safe haven. Politicians and charities had previously called on the Government to take 3,000 unaccompanied vulnerable children, in addition to the pre-existing committment to take 20,000 refugees by 2020.
The Government has said it will give £10 million to help refugee children already in Europe, as well as allow lone children in Europe to join relatives in the UK while their claims for asylum are examined. According to the Refugee Council, while existing 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.
Yvette Cooper, chair of Labour's refugee taskforce, said the UK "cannot turn our backs on children who are already in Europe and desperate families who have already come to Europe because they are fleeing persecution".
Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, welcomed the announcement but said it would be a mistake if the majority of children ended up coming from the Syrian border camps.
Kirsty McNeil, from the charity Save the Children, said there was "confusion" over exactly what the government was proposing. She said more needed to be done to help child refugees in Europe, saying thousands "simply disappeared" from the Italian system last year "into the hands of traffickers, or... the sex trade or the drugs trade".