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Calais Jungle Camp: Child Refugees

Volume 774: debated on Wednesday 20 July 2016


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the threatened demolition of the Calais Jungle camp and the position of child refugees.

My Lords, the French Government have not confirmed an intention to clear the Calais camp; however, they have consistently maintained that the camps are not permanent. We will continue to work with the French to address the situation in Calais, including by providing alternative accommodation for migrants in France, improving support available for all unaccompanied children in Calais, and prioritising asylum cases for children with family links to the UK.

My Lords, can the Government say to the French authorities that to demolish the camp without making adequate alternative arrangements for the people living there will be an attack on very vulnerable people indeed? Furthermore, can the Government speed up the process of getting unaccompanied child refugees to Britain? We have given that undertaking; they are there in Calais; why not bring them here quickly?

I thank the noble Lord for that question. We are talking to the French Government about all aspects of the migrant situation in northern France. The French Government have made it clear that anyone who does not want to live in the makeshift camps in Calais has the option of engaging with the French authorities, who will provide accommodation and support. Nearly 5,000 migrants have taken up that offer since the autumn. On the speed of delivery, since the beginning of the year, the UK has accepted more than 50 requests from France under the Dublin regulations to take care of asylum-seeking children on family unity grounds. More than 40 children have already been transferred to the UK, and more than 20 who meet the criteria under the Immigration Act 2016 have been accepted for transfer to the UK since Royal Assent in May.

My Lords, will the Government include in their discussions with the French authorities the issue of policing encampments and trying to avoid as much as possible the use of riot police? Secondly, will they try jointly, and harder, to make the Dublin III regulation actually work for real people?

That is precisely the type of thing that both Governments are collaborating on and, yes, making the Dublin framework work is of course a top priority.

How many of the 20,000 refugees we pledged to receive into the UK in the term of this Parliament have been received up to now? And if I ask that question in October, what answer does the Minister forecast I will get?

My Lords, I would not want to forecast anything but I am pleased to tell the noble Lord that the total number who have been resettled is 1,854 but, since the programme expanded, that number is 1,602, which is very pleasing indeed.

My Lords, as a result of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, we have a scheme that allows vulnerable Syrians to be resettled here. But I have pointed out repeatedly—and the issue has been raised in the other place with the new Immigration Minister, Robert Goodwill—that there is no scheme for vulnerable Iraqi people. For example, there is no basis for Yazidis to be resettled in the United Kingdom. Will the Minister please undertake to look in detail over the Summer Recess at the situation of vulnerable Iraqis and agree to meet with Members of this House and the other place to discuss whether an extension of the Syrian scheme by a few thousand to enable vulnerable Iraqis to come to the UK would be an appropriate response, particularly bearing in mind the responsibility that we owe post-Chilcot?

My Lords, in the two days that I have been in post, I have not got any further than France. But my noble friend has already spoken to me about this and I undertake to look into her request over the summer.

My Lords, I welcome the noble Baroness to her post. Mindful of the fact that over 200 children went missing when the southern part of the camp was dismantled, will a commitment be given in the case of unaccompanied children to avoid the perils of sudden dispersal?

The right reverend Prelate makes a very important point not only about safeguarding children, especially when they are unaccompanied on their journey, but about being mindful of some of the legal frameworks of the countries they have come from, so I totally concur with the right reverend Prelate’s point.

My Lords, has the issue of financial support to local authorities for the cost of providing for unaccompanied refugee children relocated to this country been resolved to the satisfaction of local authorities? If not, what is the extent of any disagreement?

My Lords, my understanding is that it has, and that they will certainly be reimbursed fully in year one, with that funding reducing over time as those families become settled in this country.