The government announced a new initiative for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children to be resettled in the UK from Greece, Italy and France.
- children registered in Greece, Italy or France before 20 March to be eligible for resettlement
- government to work with local authorities on plans to resettle unaccompanied children
- programme to extend government’s twin-track approach of helping vulnerable youngsters without encouraging any new perilous crossings to Europe
Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children will be resettled from Greece, Italy and France, in an initiative announced today following discussions between the government and Save the Children.
This initiative builds on last month’s announcement that up to 3,000 vulnerable children and family members will be resettled direct from the Middle East and North Africa.
And it adds to the resettlement of 20,000 people direct from Syrian refugee communities, which has been under way since last year.
The government has always adopted a twin-track approach to dealing with the migrant crisis: helping the most vulnerable while not encouraging new perilous crossings to Europe.
That approach will continue through this initiative, by restricting resettlement to children registered before the EU migration agreement with Turkey came into force on 20 March.
The retrospective nature of the scheme will avoid creating a perverse incentive for families to entrust their children to people traffickers.
And it will mean that the UK can focus on the most vulnerable children already in Europe without encouraging more to make the journey.
The government will work closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to deliver this scheme, as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs) like Save the Children. It will be separate to any EU-administered resettlement schemes.
Those at risk of trafficking or exploitation will be prioritised for resettlement. And existing family reunion routes will be accelerated.
Announcing the move in Parliament today, Prime Minister David Cameron said:
“No country has done more than Britain when it comes to help for Syrian refugees.
“We are going to do more for children who were already registered in Europe before the EU-Turkey deal. But we must stick to the principle that we shouldn’t be encouraging people to make that perilous journey.
“That’s been the cornerstone of our policy and that should remain the case.”
The government is not putting a fixed number on arrivals, but will instead work with local authorities across the UK to determine how many children will be resettled.
We will move quickly to consult local authorities, with the first arrivals expected before the end of the year.
The initiative responds to the revised amendment to the Immigration Bill put forward by Lord Dubs, which proposes that the government consults with local authorities before setting out a plan for resettling children from Europe to the UK. The government will accept the revised amendment from Lord Dubs when the Immigration Bill returns to the House of Commons next week.