Today, 12 June, Safe Passage secured a major political win. Working in partnership with Lord Dubs and a cross-Party group of MPs we campaigned to ensure the EU Withdrawal Bill bound the UK Government to negotiate a new deal for child refugees in Europe seeking to reunite with family in the UK after Britain’s departure from the EU.
Currently, the majority of children Safe Passage assist are helped to reunite with family in the UK through this EU route, and its closure would have been catastrophic for refugee children and their families post-Brexit.
Lords amendment 24 that protected the right of children and adults seeking refugee protection in Europe to reunite with family in the UK was won in the House of Lords last month and returns for debate in the House of Commons tomorrow, June 13th. In response on Friday the Government proposed their own amendment that will bind the UK Government to negotiate for unaccompanied children to join parents, adult siblings, grandparents and spouses, but crucially omitted reunions with aunts and uncles – which make up over half of Safe Passage cases.
However, following sustained campaigning from Conservative MPs and Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee Yvette Cooper MP, Brexit Secretary David Davis signed amendments by Yvette Cooper to include uncles and aunts in the proposal.
Safe Passage will continue to campaign for the rights of children to join siblings under the age of 18 (currently provided for under the EU regulations) and support Yvette Cooper’s amendment to add in this category to the Government’s proposal.
Beth Gardiner-Smith, Head of Campaigns, said:
“This marks a significant step forward for unaccompanied children in Europe. For the first time, we have some certainty that a vital route for refugee children to reunite safely with family in the UK will not be closed down because of Brexit. We welcome the Government’s movement on this, and will continue to press for children to be able to join minor siblings, as well as for spouses and other family members who currently have rights under EU law.”