22 February 2017
A group of young refugees and asylum seekers have written a letter appealing for safer routes for children fleeing conflict or persecution.
The open letter follows the closure of the Dubs Amendment, which sought to bring unaccompanied minors stranded in Europe to the UK.
The letter reads:
“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.”
The 17 signatories come from countries including Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Eritrea.
All are aged between 16 and 22 years and have chosen to remain anonymous.
All had to undertake perilous journeys to reach the UK because there were no safe, legal routes to protection available to them.
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.
Each of them is being supported by British Red Cross projects in London, Kent and Glasgow.
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.”
Two routes to safety
There are currently two routes under which unaccompanied refugee children in Europe can come to the UK:
- The Dubs Amendment: until recently, this offered unaccompanied children safe refuge in the UK provided it was in their best interests. Approximately 350 children will have used this scheme before its closure later this year.
- The Dublin Regulation: this allows children with family in the UK to join their family and claim asylum here.
The vast majority of lone children in the UK, however, arrive through unofficial routes and claim asylum upon arrival.