If the Conservatives get serious, this problem can be solved by Christmas
Ten Conservative MPs have written to home secretary Amber Rudd, asking her to take action to relocate refugee children in Calais before the camp is bulldozed by the French government.
The signatories, including former education secretary Nicky Morgan, write that ‘it is critical that we in the UK ensure that unaccompanied children with a legal right to be here are kept safe while they wait,’ referring to the large numbers of children who have been left in the squalor of Calais while their family reunification claims are processed.
Many have given up hope of the UK taking action, and so attempt to jump trucks travelling across the channel. A 14-year-old Afghan boy was killed a few weeks ago while attempting to board a lorry.
‘We are sure you feel as heartbroken as we do about this,’ the letter reads.
Now, you might be tempted to suggest that the heartbreak of Tory cabinet members means little, since this crisis has been building for several years and the government has done everything it can to ignore it.
You might recall David Cameron referring to the refugees in Calais (including children) as ‘a bunch of migrants’ — where was Nicky Morgan’s heartbreak then?
You might ask why, if they’re so concerned about child refugees, all these signatories voted against the Dubs Amendment, which called for 3,000 child refugees to be relocated to Britain from elsewhere in Europe?
However, instead of focusing on their former failings (and they are numerous) or querying their sudden change of heart, we should simply welcome the fact that some Tories have finally realised that it’s unacceptable that children with a legal right to be in Britain are suffering and dying on the side of a motorway in France.
Last week, Labour committed to getting all the children in the Calais camps to safety before Christmas. If the Tories are willing to get behind that effort, then better late than never.
Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin is editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter.
This is the full text of the letter, signed by Tim Loughton MP, David Burrowes MP, Nicky Morgan MP, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Caroline Ansell MP, Sir David Amess MP, Jason McCartney MP, Flick Drummond MP, James Gray MP and Jeremy Lefroy MP.
“Dear Home Secretary,
Our Prime Minister recently returned from President Obama’s global summit on the refugee crisis having rightly committed to ensure that the UK can tackle this problem at its source. We now must show we can do the same closer to home.
Recently, a 14-year-old boy died in Calais when he fell off a truck while trying to reach the UK. He had a legal right to be with his brother, but having waited for months in wretched conditions for the process to work, he took fate into his own hands with devastating consequences. He had travelled thousands of miles to find his family and his journey ended in tragedy twenty miles from our border.
We are sure you feel as heartbroken as we do about this and the conditions in the camp he was trying to escape. Children are living alone in tents donated by the generous British people, living each day in fear of violence, exposed to criminals and, as we have seen, at risk of losing their lives. With the French authorities planning to dismantle the camp, life is only likely to get harder for these vulnerable children.
It is critical that we in the UK ensure that unaccompanied children with a legal right to be here are kept safe while they wait. This means working with France to ensure children are moved out of the camp before the bulldozers arrive, and into a safe place where they have access to the legal support and social care they need.
We must ensure that it is the authorities and the law that help these children, and not the criminals who would put them in the back of trucks or leave them to take their own chances. We know how seriously you take this issue and we want you to know you have our full support to act to ensure these children learn their legal rights to be with their family and get to be with them safely and quickly. We can do more to help these children and in doing so we will defeat the traffickers.
Above all, as Conservatives, we must champion the role of the family in resolving this refugee crisis. Family reunion is the best tool we have for offering a legal and safe way to get unaccompanied children back into the arms of their family and out of the hands of the traffickers. We must ensure we do all we can to use the love and power of the family to keep children safe.”
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