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Refugee Support

Volume 622: debated on Monday 6 March 2017

The UK provides protection for refugees here, in accordance with our international obligations. The Government have established a £10 million refugee children fund for Europe, provided significant assistance via the European Asylum Support Office, and allocated up to £39 million to the humanitarian response in Greece.

Why is it that only a solitary Home Office official in each of Greece and Italy is working on the Dubs and Dublin schemes? According to non-governmental organisations on the ground, the result is that the schemes are barely functioning there at all.

We work very closely with our colleagues in France, Greece and Italy. We committed 115 staff into Greece, 75 of whom are already there, including one embedded member of the Home Office staff who is helping with Dublin applications in Athens. Of course, we also have our Border Force commitment in the Mediterranean, which ensures that we save people’s lives should they make that perilous journey across the Mediterranean.

Home Office guidelines recognise that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender refugees are at serious risk in Afghanistan, but also suggest that if the individual did not attract or seek to cause public outrage, they would avoid persecution, so could be returned. Will the Minister tell us why the Home Office has decided to depart from the UN guidelines on refugees?

We aim to process all asylum claims sympathetically. Our staff are trained in interviewing asylum seekers who may have LGBT issues or, indeed, who may have converted to Christianity and find it difficult to express some of their feelings during those interviews.

Bath and North East Somerset Council has one of the best relocation programmes for unaccompanied children and for refugees in the country. However, it is struggling to enable more to come to Bath and North East Somerset due to a range of different safeguarding risks. What more support can the Government give to councils such as Bath and North East Somerset that are really struggling on safeguarding issues? Perhaps I could meet the Minister to discuss those issues.

We recognise the challenge that many local authorities face in dealing with some of these particularly vulnerable children, which is why we have increased the funding up to £40,000 for the under-16s, and to around £30,000 for 16 and 17-year-olds. I hope that will help them find the resourcing that they need to deal with those particular children.

Kent continues to be on the frontline when it comes to unaccompanied asylum-seeking children arriving in the UK, with more than 3,000 arriving each year. Given the interest in the matter across the House, will the Minister outline what steps are being taken to ensure that local authorities across the country are helping counties such as Kent and sharing the burden of these children no matter how they have come into the UK?

That is precisely why we have set up the national transfer scheme for local authorities such as Kent, which have 400 more children than the 0.07% allocation would indicate. It is also why we have encouraged local authorities that say that they have spare spaces to participate in that scheme and take the pressure off counties such as Kent and Croydon.

I call Graham Jones. Where is the fella? Well, the hon. Member for Cardiff North (Craig Williams) is here and he is waiting patiently, so let us hear from him.