In the House of Commons, Stephen Doughty (Labour MP for Cardiff South and Penarth) has said that the UK should take in – for their protection – children fleeing from Syria, from conflicts across the Horn of Africa and “elsewhere”.
Doughty was questioning Home Office Minister James Brokenshire – Home Office, Security and Immigration, in a session on “Unaccompanied Refugee Children: Relocation and Support” as part of the Immigration Bill.
Brokenshire had said ” The Government wholeheartedly share the intentions of the noble Lords to protect and support vulnerable unaccompanied refugee children, but the challenge is how we most effectively harness our strong sense of compassion and moral duty. …This is about how we use both head and heart.
The Minister had continued “Our starting principle is that we must put the best interests of children first, and avoid any policy that places children at additional risk or encourages them to place their lives in the hands of people traffickers and criminal gangs. In any response, we need to be careful not inadvertently to create a situation in which families see an advantage in sending children ahead, alone and in the hands of traffickers, putting their lives at risk by making them attempt treacherous sea crossings to Europe. As the horrendous events in the Mediterranean last week demonstrated, that would be the worst of all outcomes.”
Doughty stood up to ask “The Minister specifically mentions the horrific events in the Mediterranean last week. I have heard from a number of constituents who, through their family connections, knew of people fleeing. He mentioned Syria, but people are fleeing not just Syria but conflicts all across the horn of Africa and elsewhere.I have heard some absolutely harrowing stories from those who have survived those terrible crossings—people trying to travel from Alexandria being abused by people traffickers. Does he not agree that, when children survive such horrific tragedies, we need to do our bit in taking some of them here for protection in this country?”
Replying, the Home Office Minister James Brokenshire said “Clear judgments have to be made on how the UK most effectively provides support. I will come on to how we can help in Europe and to look at those issues that he highlights, which include: the trafficking gangs that exploit people across Africa and the broader regions; how we are playing our role in the Khartoum process to work with African Union countries to take action; and finding that common sense of engaging and working against the people trafficking and smuggling networks.”
Later Brokenshire said ” We launched the Syrian vulnerable person resettlement scheme to resettle 20,000 people over the course of this Parliament. Well over 1,000 people have been resettled to date, around half of whom are children. That means that, in the next four years, several thousand more children will be resettled in the UK under the Syrian scheme, but as I said in my statement of 28 January, we want to do more, especially for children most in need of support. That is why, last week, I announced a new resettlement scheme for children at risk. That initiative will be the largest resettlement effort to focus on children at risk from the middle east and north Africa region—children who might otherwise attempt their own perilous journeys to Europe and the UK.”