Saturday, December 21, 2019

No Room In the Country for Children?

The Home Office has been accused of ignoring more than 1,400 offers from local councils to house child refugees, prompting criticism that Boris Johnson’s government is defying its obligations to offer sanctuary to vulnerable minors. Councils across the UK have volunteered to take hundreds of unaccompanied children from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. However, numbers of arrivals are said to be “pitifully low to nonexistent”.

Wiltshire, Leicestershire, Brighton and Hove, along with the London boroughs of Islington, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Lewisham have each pledged to take at least 100 children, according to charity Safe Passage.

Birmingham has offered to support 80 more minors, Bristol 60 and Leicester 50. More than 400 of the offers come from Conservative-run local authorities, 950 from Labour councils and the remainder from SNP and independents.
The pledges have been made by councils under the Home Office’s Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme (VCRS). The only available data indicates that just 20 unaccompanied minors have been allowed into the UK under a scheme begun more than three years ago to resettle 3,000 vulnerable refugee children from conflict zones in the Middle East and north Africa.

The claims of Home Office resistance to the councils’ offers comes after Johnson told parliament on Thursday he was reducing legal protections for refugee children in his new Brexit bill.  The legislation jettisons a commitment in EU regulations that secures safeguards for asylum-seeking minors in Europe who want to reunite with family in the UK. Charities said they had detected a hardening of the Home Office approach to child refugees even before the bill was unveiled. Campaigners say the issue partly explains why the numbers of vulnerable minors brought to the UK are so low despite so many council places being available.

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