1 in 4 councils refuse to take Calais child refugees... including Theresa May’s constituency
Almost 40 councils in England are refusing to accept any of the roughly 1,000 child refugees evacuated from the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp, which is being demolished by the French government this week.
Up to 10,000 people are being removed from the makeshift camp on a stretch of wasteland near the French port town of Calais. Several hundred of them are unaccompanied children.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday evening, UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd said around 800 child migrants had told officials visiting the camp they had relatives living in Britain.
Almost 200 have been brought to the UK so far, including 60 girls, under the Dubs amendment, which protects vulnerable refugee children in Europe.
Despite the ongoing demolition, no new arrivals will be considered by British authorities, as the government wants to discourage more children from making the perilous journey to northern France.
“Through this process it is important we do not encourage more children to head to Calais, risking their lives in the hands of traffickers,” Rudd told MPs.
“That’s why we will only consider those present in the camps before the start of clearances of the operation [on Monday].
“But we will continue to do this quickly, but it is essential that we carry out the proper safeguarding, age assessment and security checks, working closely with local authorities and social workers here in the UK, to ensure that the children are eligible, and that it is in their best interests to come.”
One of the 38 councils to refuse to take a share of child refugees, out of England’s 156 local authorities, is Prime Minister Theresa May’s own Maidenhead constituency.
Local authorities fear they do not have the capacity to provide for and protect refugee children.
“Those arriving from the Calais camp will require care and support packages directly from councils and their partners,” David Simmonds, chairman of the Local Government Association’s asylum, refugee and migration task group, said in a statement.
“For those children relocated with existing family living in the UK, councils will still want to be assured that arrangements put in place can meet the child's needs and that they are safe and well.”
But he warned that local services “also require long-term funding arrangements from government so that the commitment to support those children starting a new life in the UK is properly funded.”
The newly elected chairwoman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, Yvette Cooper MP, told Rudd on Monday that the time it took for the British government to act on the crisis had been deplorable.
“You will know my concern that this has obviously started so late and therefore the risks of trafficking and disappearing for many of those who are still left,” she said.
Cooper, who was appointed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as the chair of the party’s refugee taskforce, also said she wanted assurances that the children and teenagers arriving in Britain would be taken care of by youth and social workers at all times.