By Rachel Humphris, University of Birmingham
To start the New Year, The International Development Committee’s first report for 2016 [i] urges the UK Government to accept an additional 3,000 refugee children from within Europe. The Committee, which has cross-party support, calls for an urgent Government response to their findings and recommendations.
The report details 7.6 million Syrian children (within and outside the country) need humanitarian assistance, close to eighty per cent of Syria’s child population (p. 24). UNHCR have recorded more than one million sea arrivals in Europe in 2015, of which around twenty five per cent are estimated to be children [ii]. The Committee expressed most concern for the 13,000 unaccompanied children that arrived in Italy, of whom almost 4,000 subsequently disappeared.[iii]
In response, Save the Children began the campaign to urge the UK to give a safe haven to 3,000 separated children fleeing conflict and arriving in Europe alone. In addition to the International Development Committee adding its weight to the suggested plan, Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats, also backed the proposal. However, despite this support, Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted the UK should continue to resettle those in refugee camps in Syria and neighbouring countries. Currently, the UK has committed to resettle 20,000 refugees over the next five years. It remains to be seen whether refugees already in Europe will qualify for resettlement under the UK’s Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) scheme.
This recommendation is one of several made by the Committee which said more needed to be done to alleviate the suffering of those who are currently on the move towards Europe. The report also calls for greater efforts to tackle under-registration of precarious groups such as LGBT, Christians, disabled people and Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The report also renews pressure on Government to ensure funding commitments are upheld and insists long term planning is implemented for the well-being and employment of those who have already been resettled.
[i] International Development Committee. Syrian Refugee Crisis, First Report of Session 2015-16 HC 463 http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmintdev/463/463.pdf [accessed 5th January 2016]
[iii] Written evidence submitted by Save the Children. Para 3.18 http://data.parliament.uk/WrittenEvidence/CommitteeEvidence.svc/EvidenceDocument/International%20Development/Syrian%20refugee%20crisis/written/22820.html [accessed 5th January 2016]