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Child Refugees | Fostering

Child Refugees | Fostering

Fostering Agencies Increase Pressure on Government to Help Child Refugees

The Home Office has been accused of reneging on its promise to provide sanctuary to child refugees, as it emerges that foster agencies across the UK have made available dozens of placements which remain unused.

The Guardian estimates that there are hundreds of agency placements available for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, in addition to the 1,400 offers from local councils that the Home Office stands accused of ignoring. 

According to the charity Safe Passage—who’ve already helped more than 1,800 child refugees—Wiltshire, Brighton and Hove, Leicestershire, Islington and Lewisham have each pledged to take at least 100 children.

Britain’s largest fostering and adoption charity, Tact Care, has also told the Home Office that they could easily accommodate their obligations to offer sanctuary to every child refugee. But so far, the Home Office remains uninterested. According to Tact Care’s chief executive, Andy Elvin, their response “has nothing to do with capacity” but is rather “an ideological decision”. 

The Home Office’s resistance to offers of help comes after Boris Johnson recently told parliament he was reducing legal protections for refugee children in his new Brexit bill. The legislation, passed with a majority of 124, abandons a commitment to EU regulations which secures safeguards for asylum-seeking minors in Europe trying to reunite with family living in the UK.

Acting Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey described the government’s position as “inhumane” and opposition MPs are currently pushing for amendments to Mr Johnson’s Brexit legislation to preserve the rights of unaccompanied child refugees post-Brexit. But the amendments don’t stand much chance of success, because Mr Johnson can use his 80-strong majority from December’s election to force his legislation through parliament.

The commitment was included in Theresa May’s original withdrawal agreement bill after a campaign led by Labour peer Lord Dubs, who was one of the 10,000 children rescued from the Nazis via the Kindertransport in 1939.

Despite the government saying it remains committed to the so-called Dubs amendment, children’s charities are becoming increasingly frustrated with the Home Office’s sluggishness in transferring child refugees to the UK. 

Campaigners had hoped the Dubs scheme would resettle approximately 3,000 children but ministers controversially set a limit of 480. To date it the Home Office refuses to specify how many have since been offered sanctuary. The only available data indicates that only 20 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children have been allowed into the UK.

It’s currently estimated that around 200 child refugees are living in treacherous conditions in northern France, with thousands more trapped in Greece and Italy, where camps are dangerously overcrowded and under-resourced. Most remain eligible from transfer to the UK.

To help, grassroots charities are beginning to take over some of the responsibilities of government. Most recently, the charity Home for Good, has launched a project to find family-based placements for vulnerable children who arrive in the UK through the Dubs scheme and ensure that councils have enough upfront funding to provide a home. The project, which has been launched in Wiltshire, Bristol and Lewisham, is initially seeking to provide an additional 20 homes.

Editor: Oscar Williams