Safe Passage International along with Refugee Rights Europe, Help Refugees and several other charities have written an open letter to Theresa May, setting her a deadline to fill the current Dubs quota of 480 places for unaccompanied children and urging her to ‘enable children subject to acutely vulnerable circumstances to swiftly reach safety’ in the UK, by increasing the total number of places available.
‘We remain alarmed by the length of time that children are left awaiting transfer to the UK, in often harmful environments. We, therefore, ask you to set a meaningful timeframe and commit to filling the current 480 places by October 2019 – three years after the first relocations took place,’ the letter says.
It adds ‘hundreds of children remain in complete destitution in the Northern France area, exposed to daily risks of trafficking and abuse. Unless the government increases the number of spaces available under [the Dubs scheme], these children will be stuck in limbo, with no hope of rebuilding their lives in the UK.’
The letter has been sent in the wake of reports that the Home Office is no longer taking referrals for children under the Dubs scheme in France. This rules out the only safe route to the UK for hundreds of unaccompanied children, some as young as 10, living on the streets across Northern France and beyond.
To help increase the speed of transfers of children approved for the Dubs scheme, Safe Passage International has been engaging directly with local authorities to encourage them to accept Dubs children. As a result, over 20 Dubs places have been found in recent months, showing that the scheme does work, the organisation says.
But Safe Passage understands from conversations with French authorities that the Dubs scheme will close in France after 9 more transfers are finalised.
Eleanor Harrison, CEO of Safe Passage said ‘Exactly 3 years ago this month, section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016 became law. Commonly known as the Dubs scheme, section 67 represents a beacon of hope for unaccompanied refugee children in Europe. Many have been subjected to abuse, detention, police brutality and even tear gassing during their journeys.
“Children who have been through so much may see the UK as a place where they can start to rebuild their childhoods in peace. It is heartbreaking that their dreams of finally reaching this country may come to nothing, because of a decision by the UK government to cap the number of Dubs places.”
The signatories of the letter have warned that without a safe and legal route to the UK, children may feel they have no choice but to risk travelling by other means, or falling into the hands of traffickers or smugglers.
Hayley Willis of the Refugee Youth Service in Dunkirk, which is supporting over 250 children said: “All children deserve a safe and secure foundation through childhood to enable them to flourish and thrive throughout their lives. On a daily basis we see children who do not have the opportunity to build this foundation, leaving them openly exposed to severe abuses and trafficking, and plagued with traumatic memories that hinder their success when they try to rebuild their lives later on.”
Maddy Allen from Help Refugees added “Our teams on the ground work tirelessly to ensure that these children have access to their legal rights. Whilst the British government continues to fail to fulfil to make transfers with legal routes of passage under Dubs, children are falling into the vacuum of exploitation that opens up in its stead.
“Exposed to dire living conditions and daily police violence, the young people experience physical and psychological harm. The Dubs places for transfer must be filled immediately. We know that the systems exist to ensure that legal passage to the UK from Northern France can take place.”
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