To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps her Department is taking to help relocate unaccompanied children in the refugee camps on the Aegean Islands.
22 January 2021
Protecting vulnerable children is a key priority for the Government. In 2019, the UK received more asylum applications from unaccompanied children than any country in the EU and accounted for approximately 20% of all reported UASC claims made in the UK and the 27 EU Member States.
There are 5,000 unaccompanied children being cared for in England alone, a significant increase since before the migration crisis in 2014. This has placed significant pressure on local authorities and it is important that we focus on ensuring that we can care for those who are already here before we agree to taking more children.
The Home Office takes its responsibility for the welfare of children very seriously. However, responsibility for asylum seekers and refugees in EU Member States lies with the authorities of the safe EU country in which they are present in accordance with their international obligations.
The United Kingdom is no longer bound by the Dublin Regulation. Our existing Immigration Rules enable unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in Europe, among others, with family members in the UK to apply to join eligible sponsors such as those with refugee or humanitarian protection leave, or with British or settled status.
Over the last 5 years the UK has resettled more refugees direct from conflict zones than any other European country. The Government is prioritising resettling vulnerable refugees direct from dangerous conflict zones rather than those who have often paid people smugglers to reach other safe European countries. Resettling from safe European countries often creates a pull factor whereby migrants are incentivised to undertake dangerous and illegal journeys to places like Greece in the hope of them being resettled elsewhere in Europe. Our most recent figures indicate that the UK is currently looking after more unaccompanied asylum seeking children than any other European country, including Greece.