Serious concerns have been raised about the conditions in the Calais refugee camp. The situation is now urgent following the commencement of the evacuation and demolition of the southern section.
Save the Children estimate that around 300 unaccompanied children are affected. We know that unaccompanied migrant children are highly vulnerable to trafficking, sexual exploitation and other forms of abuse, and so it is of particular worry when Europol estimated in January that over 10,000 unaccompanied children have already disappeared since arriving in Europe.
There is a lack of meaningful advice being provided to these children in areas such as the ‘Jungle’ camp in Calais. Existing reunification rules are not working and there appears to be no process in place for those who would be entitled to join their family in the UK, particularly children, under the Dublin III regulation. This allows for spouses or children under 18 with refugee status or those granted humanitarian protection to be reunited with family members in the UK.
Labour’s Home Office team tabled an amendment to the Immigration Bill in December 2015 which called for the Government to carry out a wide-ranging review of refugee reunification rules. If the government had agreed to the amendment, it would had to consider options for extending the criteria for family reunion, as well as the failure to implement the Dublin III regulation.
The Government rejected Labour’s proposal and said that there does not need to be a change in the law on family reunion.
There is more that we could be doing. The Government should reconsider its refusal to take refugees who are already in Europe, on a voluntary basis, and we should support calls to take in 3,000 vulnerable and unaccompanied children, too.
I will be following this issue very closely.