The issue on child refugees is whether we take the majority from the Syrian camps or from France or Italy
I support the position of the Home Secretary as set out in her statement: "The Government take the welfare of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children extremely seriously. That is why we have pledged more than £2.3 billion in aid in response to the Syria conflict—our largest ever humanitarian response to a single crisis. The UK has contributed significantly to the hosting, supporting and protection of the most vulnerable children affected by the migration crisis. In the year ending September 2016, we granted asylum or another form of leave to more than 8,000 children. About 50% of the 4,400 individuals who have been resettled through the Syrian vulnerable persons resettlement scheme so far are children. Within Europe, in 2016, we transferred more than 900 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children to the UK, including more than 750 from France as part of the UK’s support for the Calais camp clearance. As Home Secretary, I am proud that the UK played such a key role in helping the French to close the camp safely and compassionately. The Government announced that, in accordance with section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016, we would transfer the specified number of 350 children who reasonably meet the intention and spirit behind the provision. That number includes more than 200 children who have already been transferred from France under section 67.
I must make it absolutely clear that the scheme is not closed. As required by the legislation, we consulted local authorities on their capacity to care for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children before arriving at the number. We are grateful for the way in which local authorities have stepped up to provide places for those arriving, and we will continue to work closely to address capacity needs. The Government have always been clear that we do not want to incentivise perilous journeys to Europe, particularly by the most vulnerable children. That is why children must have arrived in Europe before 20 March 2016 to be eligible under section 67 of the Immigration Act. The section 67 obligation was accepted on the basis that the measure would not act as a pull factor for children to travel to Europe and that it would be based on local authority capacity. The Government have a clear strategy and we believe this is the right approach.
Here in the UK, we have launched the national transfer scheme and we have also significantly increased funding for local authorities caring for unaccompanied asylum- seeking children by between 20% and 28%.
The Government have taken significant steps to improve an already comprehensive approach and we
are providing protection to thousands of children in this year. I am proud of this Government’s active approach to helping and sheltering the most vulnerable, and that is a position that will continue.
The scheme has not closed, as reported by some. We were obliged by the Immigration Act to put a
specific number on how many children we would take based on a consultation with local authorities
about their capacity. This is the number that we have published and we will now be working in Greece,
Italy and France to transfer further children under the amendment. We’re clear that behind these numbers
are children and it’s vital that we get the balance right between enabling eligible children to come to the
UK as quickly as possible and ensuring local authorities have capacity to host them and provide them
with the support and care they will need.
We consulted extensively with local authorities over several months to reach this number, but if your
local authority is contacting you suggesting they have extra capacity to take children then please
encourage them to participate in the National Transfer Scheme. Each year we have around 3,000
unaccompanied asylum seeking children arrive in Britain and currently a small number of councils are
taking a disproportionate share of the burden in caring for these children.