12 July 2017

Independent inquiry into the situation of separated and unaccompanied minors in Europe

Today (12 July) the Human Trafficking Foundation released the results of their independent inquiry into the situation of separated and unaccompanied minors in Europe. Safe Passage facilitated meetings between the report authors (Rt Hon Fiona Mactaggart and Baroness Butler-Sloss GBE, Co-Chairs of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Trafficking and Modern Slavery) and refugee children in the UK and France as part of their inquiry.

The report found that police violence has taught refugee children to fear the same authorities who should be protecting them, leaving the way open for smugglers and those who want to exploit the children, including traffickers.

The report also accuses the Home Office of turning a blind eye to children trapped in Northern France. The Government often cites fear of creating a ‘pull factor’ as a reason for not doing more to help child refugees currently in Europe. The inquiry found no evidence that providing a safe route for children to travel to the UK acted as a ‘pull factor’ or encouraged traffickers. Instead, the evidence showed that leaving children without safe and legal options left them stranded in dangerous and often violent situations. This often resulted in children turning to smugglers, putting themselves at risk of dangerous journeys and of exploitation.

The inquiry concludes that the Government has failed to fulfil its legal obligations under Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2017 (known as ‘the Dubs amendment’) and their moral and human rights obligations to hundreds of stranded refugee children surviving in woods around Calais and Dunkirk as well as other parts of Europe.

As the situation in Calais continues to worsen for unaccompanied children, and the numbers arriving there continue to grow, Rabbi Janet Darley, spokesperson for Safe Passage, said:

“Today’s report confirms the stark situation on the ground in Europe for child refugees. Victims of a broken system, children are being unfairly blamed and punished for the desperate situation they find themselves in.

“We join the authors in their call on the government to make safe passage a working reality. The only real option to unsafe and illegal routes is a faster, accessible, transparent and visible processing of children under Dublin III by the UK authorities.”