More children than at any point for generations are fleeing for their lives. Over half of the 21 million refugees worldwide are children. Millions of these children grow up facing a life of extreme poverty and isolation in region, while many more undertake ever more dangerous journeys as they seek a place of sanctuary. In 2015, over 90,000 unaccompanied and separated children arrived in Europe. Many more continue to arrive with record numbers dying en route.
The Calais ‘Jungle’ has served as the most visible reminder of the urgent needs of refugee children for most British communities. With it now destroyed we must not forget that millions of children need help and tens of thousands remain on our doorstep across Europe unable to access safe and legal routes to protection, whilst those arriving in the UK need support to rebuild their lives. This is why I am launching the Alf Dubs Children’s Fund.
The Alf Dubs Children’s Fund stands in the tradition of the Kindertransport, seeking to carry forward the legacy of efforts by the British public in 1938/9 when close to 10,000 children were brought to safety from Europe. We believe every single child fleeing persecution should have access to a safe and legal route to a place where they can lead a full and dignified life, and that their best interests are paramount.
In 2016 we have seen an outpouring of support across political divides, civil society and throughout the country to ensure we live up to the best of our traditions as a nation. This Fund aims to build on and deepen that community-led effort to advance the rights of refugee children seeking sanctuary.
The support raised by this Fund will be used by Citizens UK, and where appropriate sub-granted to trusted partners, to open safe and legal routes to Britain and other destination countries. It will do this through the mix of community organising, strategic litigation, high level case work and parliamentary advocacy that has been the driver of so much of the change achieved this year. The Fund will also be used to ensure the basic needs of children are met both while their cases are progressed and during the first stages of their new lives here in Britain.
I owe my own life to the individuals and communities who offered sanctuary to child refugees in 1938/9. It is a privilege to now work with so many individuals, charities and grassroots groups who are working to protect and support the rights of child refugees and were so instrumental to securing the new legal route to sanctuary for children under Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016.
Citizens UK, and their Safe Passage project has been at the heart of this work over the last year, breaking new ground in protection and legal advocacy for children, and I am proud to be working in partnership with them to create this Fund. My hope is that the support it brings will build on the achievements of this last year and seed initiatives through which we will transform the lives of today’s child refugees.