In a decision that was condemned by refugee charities and campaigners unaccompanied teenagers from Afghanistan, Yemen and Eritrea who had reached the Calais refugee camp will be barred from entering the UK in a move to limit the intake of teenagers who do not have family in the UK. Only those from Syria and Sudan will be permitted entry except in exceptional circumstances.
Lady Sheehan, the Liberal Democrat peer, said the new rules, details of which emerged on Tuesday night, were “unacceptable”. “It is quite arbitrary. We had no idea they were going to apply this sort of criteria,” she said.
Rabbi Janet Darley, the leader of Citizens UK, accused the government of back-tracking on its promises. “The UK is unforgivably backtracking on its commitment to vulnerable refugee children in Europe. Citizens UK’s safe passage team estimates that around 40% of the children who were in Calais at the time of the demolition are Eritrean or Afghan.” She continued, “By ruling out children from these countries, the home secretary is arbitrarily preventing many vulnerable children from being helped by the Dubs amendment, and will make it impossible for her to keep her promise that the UK would take half of the unaccompanied children in Calais.”
Unaccompanied children who have a family member in the UK are currently allowed in as part of a “fast transfer” family reunification programme, mandated by EU lawe. The remainder have no family in the UK, but qualify for entry under an amendment to immigration laws pushed through parliament by Lord Dubs earlier this year.