9 February 2017
The Red Cross is concerned for the welfare of thousands of unaccompanied children across Europe following a decision by the UK Government to close a viable route to safety.
The ‘Dubs Amendment’ to the 2016 UK immigration Act, led by Lord Alf Dubs, applied to unaccompanied minors without family in the UK.
The Amendment opened up a safe and legal route to refuge in the UK for unaccompanied children – provided it was in their best interests.
The scheme was brought to a premature end by the government last night.
Only 200 children have arrived in the UK under the scheme and it is expected that a further 150 children will arrive in the coming months.
Original estimates had the number of eligible children at around 3,000.
Courage, compassion and welcome
Responding to the news, Alex Fraser, our director of refugee support said: "It is deeply disappointing that, having set out to provide a safe home to some of the most vulnerable refugee children in Europe, the Dubs Amendment will ultimately only lead to 350 children being brought to the UK.
"We absolutely recognise that local authorities taking unaccompanied asylum seeking children into their care must be adequately funded to provide these children with the support they need to start rebuilding their lives.
“However, with 21 million refugees globally last year, this is a time in history that calls for courage, compassion and welcome for people who are fleeing conflict and persecution.
"The UK has a long tradition of giving refuge to people fleeing conflict and persecution and should do more to step up to the task of providing unaccompanied refugee children with a safe home."
The British Red Cross is also concerned that we shouldn’t forget about unaccompanied minors with a family connection to the UK.
Under the Dublin III regulation, family unity takes precedence over other criteria (such as where a person entered the EU) when deciding which country is responsible for assessing an asylum claim.
This means that unaccompanied minors with family members already in the UK have the right to join their relatives and claim asylum here.
We have already worked with the Home Office on the transfer of several hundred children from northern France under the Dublin regulation and Dubs amendment.
But the job is not finished – there are still children in France returning to Calais and Dunkirk as they lose faith in official processes to be reunited with their family in the UK.
We are also aiming to expand the scope of our Dublin work into Italy and Greece where thousands of unaccompanied children reside.
However, the process for applying for transfer under Dublin is far too bureaucratic. Our No place for children report highlighted significant problems with the existing transfer system.
The report found that it takes on average 10 months to process a child’s case under Dublin.
During that time they can be left without adequate care or housing. There is also a real lack of human resources, including administrative staff and interpreters, to enable children to access asylum services.
There is also a continued reliance on voluntary groups, including lawyers working pro bono, in processing Dublin claims.
The British Red Cross is the largest provider of support to refugees and asylum seekers in the UK.
We have been working with Safe Passage UK to facilitate the transfer of unaccompanied children to the UK from Calais.