Do you know your ‘Dubs Amendment’ from your ‘Dublin Regulation’?
The legislation surrounding refugees and their right to live in the UK can be complicated to understand, and even harder to navigate as a refugee.
The British Red Cross believes that safe and legal routes are essential in preventing the needless deaths of thousands of refugees who risk dangerous and illegal routes every year.
We believe that these two pieces of legislation could provide a solution.
Both the Dubs Amendment and the Dublin Regulation offer safe passage to the UK for unaccompanied children in Europe. But the reality is not simple.
So, what is the difference between them and how can they be improved?
The Dubs scheme
The Dubs Amendment refers to an amendment to the 2016 UK Immigration Act tabled by Lord Alf Dubs.
It has since been incorporated into the law, as Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016. We call it the ‘Dubs scheme’.
The British Red Cross welcomed the amendment as it opened up a safe and legal route to the UK for unaccompanied children – provided it was in their best interests.
The amendment stated that:
“The Secretary of State must, as soon as possible after the passing of this Act, make arrangements to relocate to the United Kingdom and support a specified number of unaccompanied refugee children from other countries in Europe.”
In practice, the amendment meant that we were able to work with the Home Office to bring around 200 children to the UK from camps in northern France.
However, the scheme was brought to a premature end in early February by the UK Government.
In total, 350 unaccompanied minors will be brought to the UK under the Dubs amendment, less than had originally been envisaged.
This is despite the large numbers of unaccompanied children in Europe who could potentially qualify for the scheme.
The Dublin Regulation
The Dublin Regulation is an EU law that sets out member states’ responsibilities around asylum seeker applications.
It is now in its third iteration and is often referred to as ‘Dublin’ for short.
The Dublin Regulation states that asylum seekers with family members already under international protection, or in the process of seeking asylum, have the right to claim asylum in the same country.
Under this regulation, family unity takes precedence over other criteria, such as the first country reached in the EU by a refugee.
This can impact upon which member state is responsible for processing an asylum claim.
As such, the Dublin Regulation offers some degree of help for people with family already in the country they wish to claim asylum in.
The rules are supposed to allow family members to apply in one state and transfer responsibility to another state where their family are located.
For example, a young refugee could arrive in Italy and transfer their asylum claim to the UK to join their family here, provided they are legally present.
Rules not working
In practice, however, the Dublin Regulation has not been working very well.
EU member states do not implement the regulation ‘proactively’.
Instead, refugees – including unaccompanied minors – have to navigate complex asylum and legal systems themselves, often without support, to access their rights under Dublin.
That is why so few people have successfully used this regulation to reunite with their family.
No Place For Children
The UK Government began expediting the resettlement of children from northern France in November 2016.
Several hundred children were brought over in a matter of weeks, under both Dublin and Dubs.
However, the pace of transfers has now dramatically slowed again, which is putting lives at risk.
There are still children living in poor conditions in northern France as they lose faith in official processes to be reunited with family in the UK.
Our ‘No Place For Children’ report found failures at almost every point in the process of reuniting unaccompanied refugee children with family in the UK.
On average, it took 10-11 months to bring a child to the UK from northern France. This is due to problems ranging from basic administrative errors causing severe delays, to a shortage of staff required to facilitate transfers.
The delays are causing children to become disillusioned, frustrated and desperate – meaning many resort to attempting the journey to the UK illegally.
At least three children who had a legal right to join family in the UK have died trying to make their own way as they waited for their cases to proceed.
What we are calling for
People traffickers thrive in the absence of safe and legal routes to protection – which is exactly what the Dubs Amendment is. By restricting legal channels, we are leaving children open to exploitation.
We are calling for the UK government to reopen the Dubs scheme.
There also needs to be a safe and effective mechanism put in place for Dublin transfers.
We need to make sure that children are not left to fend for themselves in places such as the ‘Jungle’ camp again.