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Unaccompanied Child Migrants

Volume 608: debated on Monday 11 April 2016

10. What recent assessment she has made of the risks of trafficking or exploitation to unaccompanied child migrants in France who intend to seek asylum in the UK; and if she will make a statement. (904385)

The French and UK Governments have put in place a programme, run by the non-governmental organisation France terre d’asile, to identify and help potential victims of trafficking in the camps around Calais. As has been said in previous answers, unaccompanied refugee children in France should claim asylum there. That is the best way to ensure that they receive the protection and support they need. It also provides a legal and safe route to the UK for those with close family in the UK.

But as we know from the earlier questions to which the Minister referred, there are 129 missing children, who are obviously those most at risk of such exploitation. I had a very welcome letter recently from her colleague, the Immigration Minister, about the situation of children in the camps. He said that these cases are being given priority so that the children can

“receive the protection and support they need and are reunited as soon as possible with any close family members in the UK.”

How many have been reunited?

The right hon. Lady knows that we are not giving a running commentary on numbers, but I can assure her that the work is taking place and that any unaccompanied asylum-seeking child in France should claim asylum there with the support of the NGOs, and if they have family in the UK, we will reunite them.

In view of the clear link between trafficking and forced prostitution, and following the French Government’s change last week to their prostitution laws, criminalising sex buyers but not the vulnerable women involved, and similar changes in Sweden and Norway years ago which reduced trafficking substantially, do Ministers agree that that should be considered in this country?

I know that my hon. Friend takes a keen interest in this issue and we have discussed the point outside the Chamber. I am aware also of the Home Affairs Committee’s current inquiry into the matter, and I look forward to seeing the evidence.