In this latest update, we are excited to be sharing news of our latest growth: we have expanded our work in Northern Europe and we now have a new member of staff based in Brussels. She will be promoting safe and legal channels at the European Union level through advocacy, research and campaigns.
We are also thrilled to have secured a commitment from the Prime Minister on the record, to continue the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme to resettle 20,000 refugees by 2020.
In addition, our clients contributed to the Human Trafficking Foundation’s Independent Inquiry into unaccompanied child refugees in Europe.
Safe Passage in the UK has been growing fast over the last few months and we now have a bigger, stronger team in place to welcome new arrivals to the UK, help them to find their feet in this country and work to make it possible for other vulnerable young people to find refuge here.
In May and June, we worked with the Human Trafficking Foundation on an inquiry into the situation of separated and unaccompanied minors in parts of Europe. The inquiry team, which included former judge Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss and former MP Fiona McTaggart, met with several young people who came to the UK with the help of Safe Passage. They discussed the challenges they had faced during their journey and in their life here, and their dreams for the future. The findings of this inquiry and the young people’s stories were published in a report which was launched on 13th July in the House of Lords. One of the young people and Fiona McTaggart were interviewed on the Victoria Derbyshire show about the report.
In June, we organised a fascinating seminar with community care lawyers and housing solicitors which helped us identify some of the systematic failures that can make life in the UK so challenging for young asylum seekers and refugees. We will continue to work with our partner law firms and other refugee organisations to analyse these problems and pressure local and national authorities to address the failures.
In July, our Community Mentor in Manchester helped us organise an event to help former Safe Passage clients and their families access local support services. The event was held in a community garden centre and turned out to be a great mixture of fun and information. The young people and their families got to know each other, linked up with community support groups and many were able to address concerns such as English language learning, housing or education opportunities.
We are currently working on 28 live cases across France. We have had 11 successful transfers from France since April, including the eight refusal cases which our legal partners took to the Upper Tribunal following unfair refusals by the Home Office’s expedited process in December.
As of 20 June 2017, there are an estimated 2250 lone refugee children currently in Greece. Approximately, half of these children are living in extremely poor conditions and services do not meet their basic needs.
The EU’s humanitarian response to the refugee crisis in Greece, which was previously channelled through NGOs, is being handed over to the Greek government. Due to the costs of this transition, at least five shelters are set to close. As a result, fewer spaces are available, and the number of unaccompanied children in detention, as a form of “protective custody”, is on the rise.
The transition is also raising serious questions regarding the level of protection services for children in the islands. Gaps have already been identified in areas such as medical, psychosocial and legal support.
We are delighted to have expanded our team in Italy, with the arrival of Claudia Pretto, who is based in Northern Italy and will be will be focusing on the speeding up of the transfer procedures from Italy to UK and France, and will be monitoring the situation at entry points and borders.
Between the start of the year and the end of June, 83,360 people landed in Italy. 9,761 of them were unaccompanied minors. In the first months of 2017, only three children from Italy were reunited with their loved ones in the UK. Safe Passage were responsible for two of those transfers. We are currently working on other possible transfers of twelve minors from across the country.
In addition, Safe Passage Italy is working with the Italian Dublin Unit and other NGOs to speed up the Dublin procedures.
Our staff in Ventimiglia report that there are more than 120 minors sleeping rough under bridges waiting for opportunities to cross the border.
We are delighted to announced that Safe Passage and our legal partners were shortlisted for The Lawyer magazine’s Pro-Bono award.