The Home Office is accused of making ‘no arrangements’ for the transfer of unaccompanied minors after EU rules expire at the end of this year.
Unaccompanied children in France are being told by the French authorities that they should give up hope of being reunited with family in the UK after the Home Office failed to offer the help that it had promised.
The Home Office is accused of reneging on its promise to help unaccompanied children reunite with family in the UK, with the deadline to enter the UK legally and safely under the EU’s family reunification rules which is due to expire at the end of the year.
A year ago, Boris Johnson told parliament that he was “absolutely committed to ensuring that this country will continue to receive unaccompanied children” after Britain left the EU.
The Home Office had pledged to reunite families who applied before the 31st December deadline, with charities also saying they received assurances that the UK would continue to reunite families next year for cases accepted before the Brexit transition period ended. Sources have now, however, revealed that “no proper arrangements” were put in place by the UK for transfers under the family reunification Dublin agreement.
French authorities, following discussions with the country’s interior ministry, have begun telling children and families that they cannot apply to reunite with family in the UK.
The move which could also affect minors in refugee camps in Greece, who are eligible for family reunion, forcing them to risk dangerous journeys in order to reach family in the UK.
Chief executive of the charity Safe Passage which helps with the transfer of unaccompanied minors to the UK, Beth Gardiner-Smith said: “Unaccompanied child refugees in Europe have been left with nothing more than broken promises and fading hopes of reuniting with family in the UK. It is devastating that children desperate to reunite with their family have been turned away because of government inaction and a failure in international co-operation”.
Safe Passage is aware, so far, of two families who have been told by French authorities that they could not apply for reunification, including a Kuwaiti Bidoon woman with three children who is hoping to reunite with her husband in the UK.
The charity, in addition, knows of 20 cases of unaccompanied children and five families who are eligible to be transferred to the UK but will be refused unless the situation changes.
Identified in northern France and Paris, cases include 16 unaccompanied children from Afghanistan who are seeking to join family in the UK. One is a child hoping to join his brother, who originally fled the Taliban. In another case an Ethiopian husband with two children is hoping to be reunited with his wife.
Safe Passage is now urging the UK government to take immediate action to resolve the issue and to co-operate with France and the EU to help reunite families.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “These claims are completely inaccurate. We are committed to continuing to process all family reunion cases, under the Dublin regulation, that entered the system before the end of the transition period. All EU member states can continue to make requests to the UK on the basis of family reunion and we will continue to assess and process these requests”.
“We have to help more people directly from the affected regions and that is exactly what we are planning with our new firm and fair asylum system, which will welcome people through safe and legal routes”.