The British Government is considering allowing thousands of unaccompanied children into the UK who are currently in Europe. Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, International Development Secretary Justine Greening said the government were discussing “whether we can do more” for unaccompanied children.
It is estimated that there are 3,000 children in Europe without their parents or a guardian, having fled the conflict in Syria.
The comments have come after various calls for the government to to do more to help children refugees. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn made similar calls on Saturday during a visit to refugee camps in Dunkirk and Calais.
Corbyn said: “The government is taking in 25,000 [refugees] over five years … it’s got to be much more than that, that’s a tiny figure.”
Downing Street sources have said that no decision has been finalised.
Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham said, “Just miles from our own doorstep, there are hundreds of refugee children in makeshift French camps living alone in abhorrent conditions.”
It is believed that the children will be from various camps across Europe, rather than Syria itself. The charity Save The Children first called for the UK to take in 3,000 Syrian children without an adult. Save The Children estimates that 7000 children have been killed since the start of the conflict, and around 5 million children need emergency help.
Earlier this month the International Development Committee said it supported calls for the UK to accept more unaccompanied children.
Made up by various parties, the committee commended the government’s response to the refugee crisis so far, but said it was a matter of “utmost urgency” to accept more children.
— Gary Robertson (@BBCGaryR) January 25, 2016
During its campaign, Save The Children referred to the Italian authorities claim that during 2014 up to 4000 children disappeared from official watch lists.
MPs reiterated fears by charities that unaccompanied children are vulnerable to people-traffickers. The chair of the International Development Committee and Labour MP Stephen Twigg said: “Having survived the treacherous journey, there is a grave danger that unaccompanied children become the victims of people traffickers who force them into prostitution, child labour and the drugs trade.”
David Cameron has previously suggested accepting displaced people from the region around Syria directly, rather than those in Europe. He believes the latter choice would encourage more more people to risk the journey into Europe. According to the International Organisation of Migrants at least 3,695 refugees died in 2015 attempting to enter Europe via the Mediterranean.
80 Church of England Bishops have previously called for Britain to do more to help refugees.