Safe Passage welcomes the UK-France agreement, announced today, to speed-up family reunion for refugees in Calais with family in Britain. This announcement comes two years after Safe Passage delivered the first successful family reunion of unaccompanied children from Calais to Britain using Dublin 3, a legal route which had never before been accessed, and after years of litigation and advocacy work on behalf of unaccompanied children in Europe.
The Prime Minister and French President have agreed to speed up the process for refugees in Calais to reunite with family in Britain from many months to 30 days for adults and 25 days for children. Safe Passage is currently working with children in Calais who have been waiting over 10 months for family reunion. This news is life-changing for them. We will be delighted to submit the cases of all the children we are supporting in family reunion to be the first to be transferred.
Safe Passage was set up in Calais over two years ago in-order-to open access to family reunion for unaccompanied children in Calais, a process which was completely inaccessible. Working with legal partners at Bhatt Murphy and the Migrants Law Project, Safe Passage delivered the first ever transfer of unaccompanied children from France to the UK under the Dublin III family reunion mechanism and has since been working to improve access to this safe legal route for children and adults from Calais and across Europe.
Since the demolition of the Calais ‘jungle’ camp, family reunion has been inaccessible and extremely slow. Children are routinely turned away from shelters, a pre-requirement to register for family reunion, not informed of their rights, and rely on independent actors such as Safe Passage to support them to evidence and access their legal right to family reunion. The overall process currently takes many months in some cases over a year, pushing many children into the hands of smugglers who promise them a route to the UK in days.
Safe Passage also welcomes the news that more unaccompanied children without family will be transferred to Britain, however we are concerned that this does not come at the sake of helping children in Greece or Italy too. Around 250 of the 480 places promised under the Dubs amendment are still yet to be filled, and fewer than 10 children have so-far been transferred from Greece and none from Italy.
Additional spending in Calais must also include funding for child protection and access to information. Abdullah Dilsouz, a 15- year old youth was crushed to death by a lorry while trying to cross illegally to England. He was never informed of his right to family reunification despite his brother living in the UK. This death could have been prevented if Abdullah had had access to information.
Bishop Jonathan Clark, Chair of Safe Passage said:
“We are delighted at the commitment to speed up family reunion for unaccompanied children and adults in Calais. This comes after a two-year campaign by Safe Passage and our legal partners which began when we secured the first ever family reunion for three unaccompanied children and a vulnerable adult from the Calais ‘jungle’. From our work with children in Calais and across Europe we know that safe and legal routes to reunite with family and reach protection are the only way to prevent children from being pushed into the hands of smugglers and lives being lost. We look forward to working with both Governments to ensure this commitment is delivered on.”