MP’s Column

I completely get the disappointment felt by many following the decision not to immediately accept 3,000 unaccompanied children from France.

What the media failed to report is that the Government had already presented MPs with plans to help unaccompanied children in Europe and strengthen measures to address the cause of the crisis.

It is untrue to say that we are not taking in children and vulnerable people.

3,000 children were accepted into the UK in 2015, 1000 of which are ‘stranded’ in Kent under the care of the council because very few local authorities have responded in any significant way to the Government’s invitation to receive these children and other vulnerable people.

It is true that the Government has been consistent in prioritising those who are camped along the borders of Syria and Iraq.

However, the UK is assisting Greece to process refugees including children so that they are not ‘lost’ as they travel through Europe. The UK has set up a £10 million fund, and provided people, to help identify vulnerable children, provide for their immediate support, refer them for specialist care, and help find solutions such as family reunification including in Britain.

The UK continues to provide search and rescue capabilities in the Mediterranean as part of an international force reducing the loss of life as people journey to Europe.

Many will know that an agreement was reached with Turkey to deter the flow of refugees from making the treacherous Mediterranean crossing. In March 7,800 refugees arrived in Europe compared to 56,000 in February.

No-one is pretending that life is anything but horrendous for these refugees either side of the Mediterranean and MPs and leading charities will continue to wrestle with how best to respond to this crisis for a long time yet.

By the time you read this it is likely that MPs will have debated a revised Lords amendment calling for councils and Government to find a means to accept unaccompanied children from France.

This proposal is far more workable than the one before MPs last week and builds on foundations already laid by the Government.

Derek Thomas
Member of Parliament for St Ives