accessibility & help

Young refugees and asylum seekers write heartfelt letter about need for safe routes to protection

23 February 2017

A group of young refugees and asylum seekers who arrived in the UK on their own have written a heartfelt letter appealing for safer routes for children fleeing conflict or persecution.

In an open letter following the closure of the Dubs scheme to bring unaccompanied minors stranded in Europe to the UK, seventeen young people from countries including Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Eritrea detail the perilous journeys they had to take to reach the UK because there were no safe, legal routes to protection.

Some fled through the Sahara desert and were detained in Libya before making the deadly Mediterranean Sea crossing. One spent eight hours in a freezer during his journey, which took him through 11 different countries.

In a heartfelt plea, the letter’s signatories, whose ages range from 16-22, say they are speaking out because “too often, the voices of the people this scheme has or could help are lost.”

“Many of us have been traded like cattle between groups of smugglers on our journeys. Many of us boarded over-filled rubber boats to get here. Many of us know someone who died on the journey.

“We are the lucky ones – the ones that got here safely. And each of us has a voice.

“We use our voice now to say this: please don’t put the lives of young refugees like us at risk. We all wish we didn’t have to make this journey. We urge everyone with influence to come together to establish safe, legal routes for young people to find protection.”

The identities of the signatories, who are supported by British Red Cross projects in London, Kent and Glasgow, have been protected because they were children at the time of travelling, while others are concerned about the safety of relatives who remain in their home country.

There are currently two routes under which unaccompanied refugee children in Europe can come to the UK - the Dubs scheme, or by applying to be reunited with relatives under the Dublin regulation. The majority of lone children in the UK, however, arrive through unofficial routes and claim asylum upon arrival.

Giving his reasons for signing the letter, one 18-year-old from Iran said: “I came by lorry to the UK through Calais.

“This route is really dangerous, not just for children and minors but also for families and adults. They should make it easier for children to come safely to the UK.

“Assaulting women, sexually abusing children, the smugglers are really not nice people. I would like them to make it safer. I saw so many people die, this is a deadly journey.”

Mike Adamson, Chief Executive of the British Red Cross said: “Children who have made the perilous crossing to Europe on their own have often witnessed things unimaginable to most adults, both in the countries they have fled and on their journey to find protection. We should all be doing more to step up to the task of providing these children with a safe home.”

“We encourage the government to take notice of what these young people are saying - that opening up more safe, legal routes to the UK, such as the Dubs scheme, will spare others from having to take the same risks that they had to in search of protection.”



Notes to editors

 

  • For more information please contact Anna MacSwan or Freya Carr
  • The British Red Cross, which is the UK's largest provider of support to refugees and asylum seekers, runs projects for unaccompanied asylum seeking and refugee children and young people in London, Kent and Glasgow, providing advice and support to help them settle into life in the UK.
  • The ‘Dubs Amendment’ to the UK immigration bill, led by Lord Alf Dubs, saw the British government legislate to offer safe refuge in the UK to unaccompanied children if it is in their best interests. According to Home Office figures, approximately 200 children have been brought to the UK from Europe under this route.
  • The Dublin III regulation states that asylum seekers with family members already under international protection or in the process of seeking asylum, have the right to join their family members and claim asylum in the same country. This EU law is designed to protect the internationally recognised right to an intact family unit.
  • The full text of the letter is as below:

 

“For every person who has written or spoken about the closure of the Dubs scheme in recent days, there is a young refugee whose life it could change for the better. Too often, the voices of the people this scheme has or could yet help are lost.

“Many of us have been traded like cattle between groups of smugglers on our journeys. Many of us boarded over-filled rubber boats to get here. Many of us know someone who died on the journey.

“We are the lucky ones – the ones that got here safely. And each of us has a voice.

“We use our voice now to say this: please don’t put the lives of young refugees like us at risk. We all wish we didn’t have to make this journey. We urge everyone with influence to come together to establish safe, legal routes for young people to find protection.”

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