27 MAY 2016

Let them fly update

The Prime Minister announced last week that the UK will resettle unaccompanied asylum seeking children from Europe. The situation in the Middle East and particularly Syria remains a serious concern. Therefore, the Government's focus remains on supporting countries most affected by the continuing migration crisis in the Middle East and North Africa where aid can make the biggest difference and provide resettlement to those most in need of support in the region.

In any response, the UK needs to be very careful not to inadvertently create a situation in which families see an advantage in sending children ahead, putting their lives at risk. The new announcement builds on this by helping the most vulnerable while not encouraging new perilous journeys into Europe. Only children who were already registered in Europe before the EU-Turkey deal on 20th March will be eligible for resettlement where it is in their best interests. This makes sure that the UK can focus on the most vulnerable children already in Europe without encouraging more to make the journey.

The Government have taken the decision to not put a fixed number on arrivals, but to work with local authorities across the UK to determine how many children will be resettled and to ensure that this new initiative is fully aligned with existing schemes for resettling refugees and unaccompanied asylum seeking children, including the new national transfer scheme which will be rolled out over the summer.

This compliments the significant steps that the UK is already taking, as we continue to be at the forefront of the international response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria. The UK is the second biggest bilateral donor of humanitarian aid, doubling the aid available to £2.3 billion. Moreover, the Government continues to meet its commitment to spend 0.7% of our economy on aid; is focussing on resettling up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years; providing a DFID fund of £10 million to UNCHR and Save the Children to care and assist unaccompanied children; as well as the new Children at Risk Resettlement Scheme designed to resettle children at risk direct from the Middle East and North Africa.

The refugee family reunion policy allows immediate family members of a person in the UK with refugee leave or humanitarian protection status - that is a spouse or partner and children under the age of 18, who formed part of the family unit before the sponsor fled their country of origin - to reunite with them in the UK. The scheme shows the progress made to ensure that family members that have been divided can once again be reunited.

The migration crisis is not something that will just sort itself out any time soon. We know deep down that we cannot sort it out alone. We need to take action in co-operation with our fellow European nations. To help the people who are most in need in conflict zones while ensuring that people do not continue to take the dangerous crossings across Europe which often end in disaster. We must press on European nations to adopt a similar approach, and collectively focus our support on those who are most in need.


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