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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Charities criticise Home Office for UK ban on teenage refugees

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Unaccompanied teenage refugees from countries other than Syria and Sudan will not be allowed to enter the UK from Calais

Charities have hit out at the Home Office after it revealed most unaccompanied children over the age of 12 will not be allowed to enter the UK from the demolished Calais 'Jungle' refugee camp.

Representatives from Citizens UK, Calais Action, Refugee Action and Help Refugees say the government is breaking its promises after guidance was issued which means unaccompanied teenage refugees who do not have family in the UK and are from countries other than Syria and Sudan will not be allowed entry except in exceptional circumstances.

The guidance on how to implement the Dubs Amendment – passed by Lord Alf Dubs in April this year – that committed the government to taking 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees, means that children as young as 13 and 14 from countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen and Eritrea will be barred from being transferred to Britain.

Reacting today (Thursday) after the new guidance became public, the representatives from the sector have strongly criticised the Home Office on these latest restrictions.

The organisations accuse the Home Office’s new guidance of being arbitrary, cruel and potentially illegal, and of creating an incentive for child refugees to run away from official centres in France and to try to enter Britain illegally.

We’re frankly appalled that the government appears to be backtracking on its commitment to protect unaccompanied child refugees from Calais

Bishop Peter Hill, Citizens UK leader, said: “Citizens UK’s safe passage team estimates that 40% of children in the Calais camp at the time of the demolition were Eritrean or Afghan.

“If the Home Office applies this criteria to the children who are being considered for sanctuary in the UK, it will be impossible to meet the Home Secretary’s commitment to take “half” of the children from Calais.”

Tess Berry-Hart, head of advocacy of Calais Action, said: “The UK is abandoning its moral and legal duty to safeguard unaccompanied minors, betraying both the spirit and the letter of the Dubs Amendment which makes no reference to age or country of origin.

“Minors were of the understanding that all claims would be considered during registering and boarding buses, which preceded the date of issue of the guidelines which only allow those of a certain age or specified nationalities above a certain age to be considered.

“With this trust broken, many very young unaccompanied minors of various nationalities will simply desert and instead try dangerous and extreme routes to claim asylum in the UK.”

Stephen Hale, chief executive of Refugee Action, said: “We’re frankly appalled that the government appears to be backtracking on its commitment to protect unaccompanied child refugees from Calais.

The government must amend this guidance and meet its responsibility to all unaccompanied child refugees, regardless of their nationality.

“Britain is a caring and compassionate nation; we must play our part in the worst refugee crisis for over 60 years.”

Josie Naughton, co-founder of Help Refugees, added: “The release of these criteria only continues to penalise some of the most vulnerable unaccompanied children in the crisis.

“As a result children as young as 13 are just as at risk as they ever were. An Afghan child of this age is no less deserving of safeguarding than a Syrian one.

“We have equal responsibility to them all.”

The charities are asking those concerned with the guidance to write to the home secretary Amber Rudd and the Home Office demanding that it immediately amends guidance on “s67 of the Immigration Act 2016” so that it does not discriminate by age or nationality.