The RCC welcomes the shift in public attitudes towards the refugee crisis and the compassion and generosity displayed by the UK public.
It is right that the government has finally pledged to recognise the country’s moral responsibility and accept 20,000 more Syrian refugees over the next 5 years through the existing Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme.However, this figure is still far too low given the scale of the refugee crisis and the numbers advocated by UNHCR and the European Commission. The current crisis represents the greatest movement of refugees in Europe since the Second World War and the UK must uphold its international legal obligations and duties as signatories to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, as well as our moral duty to share the responsibility with our European counterparts for the well-being of those seeking refuge, fleeing persecution and war.
Furthermore, it must not be forgotten that there are thousands of refugee and asylum-seeking children already in the UK and arriving at ports and borders, including non-Syrian refugees such as those from Eritrea, Somalia and Afghanistan. Many of these children, on their own and in families, will have experienced significant trauma and hardship and all must be provided with protection and treated with humanity and dignity.
It is essential that ongoing services and support is provided for refugee children and young people on arrival in the UK; many have been without adequate shelter, healthcare, food, emotional support and education. During this time of austerity, local authorities must be sufficiently supported to provide care for this group.
All children must be offered stability and permanence in the UK. Every day RCC members see the harmful impact of unaccompanied children, who have lost or been separated from their parents, being granted short periods of leave, leaving them facing an uncertain future, with the threat of removal from the UK once they turn 18. The UK must offer unaccompanied refugee children an enduring and consistent level of support, so that they are able to build their lives in the UK.
The UK can and must do more to help refugee children, both abroad and in the UK. It is vital that children resettled to the UK receive the support and protection they desperately need and that the asylum system is improved as a whole so that the rights of all children and young people are upheld.
The RCC calls for:
- The UK Government to welcome a fair and proportionate share of those who are fleeing persecution and war and to call for EU resettlement targets to be agreed as a matter of urgency
- Sustained support for refugees and asylum seekers, both for those who arrive in the UK and for those who are already here
- The UK Government to demonstrate a commitment to acting in the best interest of the child when making decisions and shaping policy at this time of crisis and beyond