The refugee crisis in Europe is perhaps the biggest humanitarian crisis we have faced as a continent since World War II and more should be done to protect those most vulnerable: the unaccompanied refugee children who are living alone in camps across Europe.
Many of you were in touch with me to express your concerns about the refugee crisis, specifically in regards to the reunification of unaccompanied children with family in the UK.
In May, Labour MPs voted in favour of the Dubs amendment to the Immigration Act, which would provide for the resettling of unaccompanied refugee children in the UK. After originally voting to block the amendment, the Government eventually agreed to accept Lord Dubs' amendment - this was great news.
Since the amendment was passed, however, hardly any children have arrived in the UK and latest reports show that we are set to miss the Government’s target of resettling 20, 000 Syrian refugees by 2020. This is unacceptable and it is frankly shameful that we are not doing more. Resettling lone child refugees with their families is absolutely vital to ensure their safety – while these children remain unaccompanied they are highly vulnerable to trafficking, sexual exploitation and other forms of abuse.
Earlier this month I wrote to the Prime Minister, asking her to do more to support unaccompanied children in Calais and across Europe. More needs to be done to help the most vulnerable in this crisis and I will be following the Government's performance on this important issue closely.
You may also be interested in knowing what plans Lewisham Council are working on in regards to resettling Syrian refugee families in the borough.
Labour Councillor Kevin Bonavia has been taking the lead on Lewisham’s local response to the refugee crisis. The council has been working with local community organisations, national charities and refugee groups in order to create the ‘Lewisham Offer’. This policy is an offer made on the one hand to the Government to take on Syrian refugees via the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Scheme and on the other hand to the local community to work with them in locating suitable accommodation and providing integration support.
In short, the key action is the proposed policy to settle (at least initially) ten Syrian refugee households in the borough by early 2017. You can find out more about the Lewisham Offer, and how to get involved, here.