21 Oct 2016

Commenting on the Government's progress in bringing children from the Calais refugee camp to the UK, Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said:

“This year the Government promised to offer a safe haven to children fleeing war, violence and persecution on their own. But the process of reuniting children with family here has been far too slow, and as yet no children without relatives in the UK have arrived through the resettlement scheme. With the demolition of the Calais refugee camp imminent, the Government must act with urgency to bring these children to safety.

“These children have been through unimaginable trauma and it is vital that their welfare is now prioritised, so that within a matter of days they are reunited with family, or given a long term placement in the care system.

“The Home Office already carries out robust age assessments on asylum seekers and the Government is right to rule out the use of highly inappropriate and unethical dental checks, which are of questionable accuracy and legality.

“Whether they are joining family here or not, these children will need ongoing support and protection as they rebuild their lives in the UK, including help from social workers, mental health services, legal advice and housing. Many will be going to live with family members they have not seen for many years, so local authorities need to monitor their progress. Our experience shows us that young refugees and migrants without relatives in the UK are at high risk of going missing or being trafficked, and the social workers and foster carers who will be looking after them need the right kind of specialist training. The Government also needs to provide all unaccompanied children with an independent legal guardian to help them navigate the complex immigration and legal systems they will have to face.

“Cash-strapped local authorities are facing major funding challenges and the Government needs to make sure they have additional funding that is guaranteed over the long term to properly support these vulnerable children.

“The transfer scheme - which places unaccompanied children around the UK to limit the pressure on any single council – is absolutely crucial to making this system work and if necessary, should be made mandatory, rather than optional. If the scheme fails and councils are unable to cope, children are likely to end up languishing in unsuitable accommodation, where they will be at far greater risk of falling into the hands of traffickers.

“These children desperately need not only immediate protection but also longer term stability. Many will be given only limited leave to remain, leaving them in limbo, with the prospect of being deported to a country where they will still be in danger hanging over their heads as their 18th birthday approaches. The UK Government has made an active choice to resettle incredibly vulnerable children in the UK – we must give them a long term future.”

Media enquiries
For more information, please call The Children’s Society media team on 020 7841 4422 or email media@childrenssociety.org.uk. For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508.

Notes to editor
• The Children’s Society is a national charity that runs local services, helping children and young people when they are at their most vulnerable, and have nowhere left to turn. We also campaign for changes to laws affecting children and young people, to stop the mistakes of the past being repeated in the future. Our supporters around the country fund our services and join our campaigns to show children and young people they are on their side.
• We run services for refugee and migrant children and their families in Greater Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds, London, Birmingham and the Black Country, providing advice, therapeutic support, family support, welfare support and advocacy services.