Government should do more to help vulnerable refugee children

Half of the world's refugees are children

The UK will accept more unaccompanied child refugees from Syria and other conflict zones, it was announced today.

The Home Office has asked the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to identify “exceptional cases” from camps in Syria and neighbouring countries of children who could benefit from resettlement.

 Immigration Minister James Brokenshire has indicated that Britain will also provide resources to identify children in Greece and Italy who have family members in this country. A new £10 million fund is also being established to support young refugees in Europe.

However, the move is likely to fall far short of calls by campaigners for the UK to accept 3,000 of the lone children who have arrived in the continent from conflict zones such as Syria.

Instead the UK Government is set to maintain its policy of taking vulnerable refugees directly from the conflict region in order to avoid creating a "magnet" for more to make the perilous journey to Europe.

It’s unclear how many children will be offered safety in the UK, but it’s believed this scheme will be in addition to the 20,000 refugees from Syria by 2020 the UK has pledged to resettle. 

Gary Christie, Scottish Refugee Council’s Head of Policy, cautiously welcomed the Government’s offer to take in more unaccompanied child refugees.

He said: “While this is a potential route to protection for some children, there is still a pressing need to help those children who have already reached Europe.

“Children who are on their own and travelling through Europe are vulnerable to the dangers of exposure to freezing winter conditions, exploitation and abuse. We urge the Government to do more to help refugee children who are alone and at risk.”

“While we support Save the Children’s call around the relocation of children, we also want to see the UK participating in the relocation of refugee men, women and children from Europe.”

Humza Yousaf, the Scottish Government minister for Europe and International Development, has called on the UK government to increase the number of refugees it is prepared to accept and suggested that his own government would be willing to take more than its proportionate commitment if necessary.