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Volume 624: debated on Wednesday 26 April 2017

In 2016, the UK granted asylum or another form of leave to over 8,000 children. By the end of 2016, the UK had resettled more than 5,000 people under the Syrian vulnerable persons’ resettlement scheme and the vulnerable children’s resettlement scheme, as part of our commitment to taking 23,000 people by 2020. Our resettlement schemes allow children to be resettled with their family members, thereby discouraging them from making perilous journeys to Europe alone. In 2016, we transferred over 900 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from within Europe to the UK, including more than 750 from France as part of the UK’s comprehensive support for the Calais camp clearance. And over 200 children have already arrived in the UK under section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016. The UK has pledged over £2.3 billion in aid in response to the events in Syria and the region—our largest ever humanitarian response to a single crisis. Within Europe, the UK has also established a £10 million refugee children’s fund to support the needs of vulnerable refugee and migrant children arriving in Europe. The fund includes targeted support to meet the specific needs of unaccompanied and separated children.

In my written statement of 8 February 2017 I announced that, following consultation with local authorities, the Government would transfer the specified number of 350 unaccompanied children from Europe to the UK under section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016.

The Government have very recently become aware that, due to an administrative error as part of collating the figures, one region pledged 130 places which were not accounted for in setting the specified number. As part of the consultation local authorities were asked to let their strategic migration partnerships know how many places they could offer, and then the strategic migration partnerships provided the regional number to the Home Office. The Home Office continued to work with the strategic migration partnerships throughout the consultation process, and believed that two regions in England had not provided responses after the consultation closed. Both of these regions had already stepped up to take a number of children from over-burdened councils elsewhere in the country so it was assumed they would continue to support the national transfer scheme as and when they could, but were not able to provide specific numbers which the Home Office could then allocate to section 67 cases. The Home Office recently discovered that one of the regions had sent a return and we are now including their pledges in the specified number for the purposes of section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016.

In order to ensure the specified number of children to be transferred is a true reflection of the responses to that consultation, I am today announcing that, in accordance with section 67 of the Immigration Act, the Government are increasing the specified number from 350 to 480. As outlined in my original statement, the specified number includes over 200 children already transferred from France as part of the Calais camp clearance. It does not include children transferred to the UK pursuant to the family reunion criteria of the Dublin III regulation.

The Government remain fully committed to the implementation of our commitment under section 67 to transfer unaccompanied children to the UK from Europe and no eligible child has been refused transfer to the UK as a result of this error. The Home Secretary has written to her counterparts in France, Greece and Italy and we are working closely with member states, as well as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and NGO partners so we can identify and transfer children to the UK as soon as possible. Home Office officials have met with their counterparts in each of the countries in the past few weeks to plan future transfers. We have secondees in Greece and Italy working on transfers of unaccompanied children to the UK under both the Dublin III regulation and section 67 and we published the criteria for future transfers on 10 March. Over the coming months, the Government will continue to work with EU member states and partners to implement section 67.