How we treat unaccompanied child refugees is a test of our humanity

An unaccompanied child refugee on train tracks
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I was saddened to discover this week that Conservative MPs voted unanimously to reject rights for unaccompanied child refugees to be put back into the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB). The guarantee for the right of unaccompanied child refugees to be reunited with family living in the UK, was removed from the WAB by the Conservatives after the General Election in December.

Known as the Dubs Amendment, it was initially included in the EU WAB after Labour Lord Alf Dubs successfully campaigned on the issue.

I volunteered in refugee camps in Calais as a medic, where I met lone children struggling to survive without support and was one of the co-founders of People in Motion – a charity formed in 2016 to support refugees and displaced people.

The need for aid and support in refugee camps in Europe and the Middle East remains higher than ever today.

The way we treat the most vulnerable people in society is a test of who we are and our humanity. The most vulnerable people are surely unaccompanied refugee children.

Some of them are in refugee camps, but many others live rough where they are targeted by traffickers and abusers. It’s hard to imagine being a child in a foreign country with no family, unable to speak the language, sleeping rough with nowhere to go.

A small proportion of these refugee children hope to come to the UK because this is the only safe country where they have family members they can join.

As members of the EU, we are currently part of the Dublin regulation. This allows lone children within the EU to apply for legal family reunion with relatives elsewhere within the EU.

Boris Johnson’s withdrawal bill, which passed the Commons unamended on Thursday, leaves those children whose rights have been removed, with no means of finding their family in the UK – other than by using illegal traffickers or risking their lives attempting to travel alone.

During the Second World War Britain was proud to give homes to 10,000 unaccompanied refugee children. Why have the Tories callously signed away the legal rights of just a few hundred children so they can be allowed to find their families here?

One cannot help but wonder if it is for nothing more than to appease their increasingly far right members and supporters who want Britain to be a hostile environment to anyone unlucky enough to be fleeing terror in another part of the world.

One comment

  • “We are all refugees now”, we were before the election but then there seemed to be a chance, some relief…some decent way forward and even,just maybe, out…..does anyone know what that might be now, without making use of a high window or a passing train?