Inquiry into unaccompanied and separated minors in Europe

Monday 17 July 2017

An independent inquiry into unaccompanied children in parts of Europe has found that instead of protecting children who have fled to Europe for safety, the UK Government is failing them. Written and oral evidence was submitted by Garden Court Chambers.

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The enquiry was chaired by Rt Hon Baroness Butler-Sloss and Rt Hon Fiona Mactaggart and sponsored by the Human Trafficking Foundation.

The inquiry found no evidence that providing a safe route for children to travel to the UK acted as a ‘pull factor’ or encouraged traffickers. Instead the evidence showed that leaving children without safe and legal options left them in limbo, stranded in dangerous and often violent situations. In many instances this resulted in children turning to smugglers, putting themselves at risk of dangerous journeys and exploitation in order to pay the smugglers.

The overwhelming evidence of violence inflicted by the French police on children at the Calais camp is one of the more shocking findings of this inquiry, including the indiscriminate use of truncheons and tear gassing of children and their sleeping bags. Children are denied access to showers, shelter or anywhere to store their belongings.

Inquiry recommendations include:

  • The UK should work with European counterparts to ensure that safeguarding is prioritised in all cases, and the rights of the child and the child’s best interest are upheld.
  • The UK Government must ensure that any so called ‘security measures’, funded by the British taxpayer, including outside of its own borders, operate in conformity with child protection and human rights principles and that in no cases should the UK contribute financially or otherwise toward physical or mental violence towards children.
  • The ‘Dubs scheme’, or Section 67 of the Immigration Act, needs to be open to children in practice and more children need to be included. This will require expanding the criteria so that it doesn’t exclude vulnerable children due to their age or nationality and a revised cut off date. Most urgent is quick and transparent processing of these applications. The administration of the Dubs scheme requires multi-agency teams of specialists on the ground where most children are located, including Calais and Dunkirk to build confidence in safe routes and resistance to traffickers.

Read the full report, ‘Nobody deserves to live this way’.

Written evidence was drafted by Shu Shin Luh and Kathryn Cronin based on the collective experiences of Garden Court barristers specialising in immigration, public law and community care. Shu Shin Luh also provided oral evidence to the inquiry.

A number of Garden Court members have provided pro bono legal advice for the Athens Legal Support Project for Refugees, a pilot scheme founded to provide legal advice and support to refugees and Greek lawyers. You can find out more about the Athens Legal Support Project for Refugees and how you can help here.

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