Britain consigning refugee children to squalor and traffickers - Lords

© Yves Herman
Britain is failing thousands of refugee children by avoiding taking responsibility for the care and protection of unaccompanied minors coming from war-torn countries such as Syria and Afghanistan.

Lone children have been reported living in squalid conditions and at risk from smuggling gangs across the European Union.

Research by the Lords EU committee also found that young migrants are confronted with a culture of suspicion and disbelief, which leads to neglect by social services. At least 10,000 asylum seeking children are currently missing.

According to peers, the report proves the “harrowing” conditions some refugee children live under, including squalid accommodation, daily destitution and emotional desperation over their future.

“The current refugee crisis is the greatest humanitarian challenge the EU has faced in its lifetime,” said the committee’s chairwoman Baroness Prashar.

“At the sharp end of this crisis are unaccompanied migrant children, who are being failed across the board.

“We found that these children face suspicion on arrival. They are seen as ‘somebody else’s problem,’ and the conditions they live in were described to us as deplorable and squalid. We found a clear failure among EU countries, including the UK, to shoulder their fair share of the burden.”

She added that the Lords openly “regretted” the “government’s reluctance to relocate migrant children to the UK, in particular those living in terrible conditions in the camps near the Channel ports.”

The number of asylum requests by under 18s without their parents or guardians has risen sharply over the last year. Close to 90,000 children came to Europe in 2015 - an increase of nearly 300 percent.

In Britain there were over 3,000 applications from lone minor migrants last year, which was more than double the amount seen in 2014.

The committee insisted that EU member states were “fundamentally” failing to comply with their obligations to welcome and protect children “in a manner that recognises their specific vulnerability.”

It added that the refugee camps bordering Britain, namely those at the French port towns of Calais and Dunkirk, are “wholly unsuitable” for children.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “By legislating through the Immigration Act 2016 we have made crystal clear our commitment to bringing vulnerable children from Europe to the UK. More than 20 children have been accepted for transfer to the UK since the Act was given royal assent and the majority of these have already arrived.

“We are consulting with local authorities across the country to confirm available capacity and ensure appropriate support systems are in place. We are also in active discussions with the UNHCR and the Italian, Greek and French governments to strengthen and speed up mechanisms to identify, assess and transfer children to the UK and ensure this in their best interests.”