- Published: Friday, 21 October 2016 15:37
- Written by James Gray MP
As you may be aware, there was a recent debate on the appalling situation in Calais, during which I called for a collaboration between French and British officials in order to ensure the safety of the children in the camp.
It seems to me obvious that unaccompanied children who have a legal right to be in the UK with their relations should never be left to suffer in the Jungle in Calais, or anywhere else for that matter. The safety of these children is paramount, and prior to this debate, I had also added my name to an open letter to the Home Secretary:
Dear Home Secretary,
Our Prime Minister recently returned from President Obama’s global summit on the refugee crisis having rightly committed to ensure that the UK can tackle this problem at its source. We now must show we can do the same closer to home.
Recently, a 14-year-old boy died in Calais when he fell off a truck while trying to reach the UK. He had a legal right to be with his brother, but having waited for months in wretched conditions for the process to work, he took fate into his own hands with devastating consequences. He had travelled thousands of miles to find his family and his journey ended in tragedy twenty miles from our border.
We are sure you feel as heartbroken as we do about this and the conditions in the camp he was trying to escape. Children are living alone in tents donated by the generous British people, living each day in fear of violence, exposed to criminals and, as we have seen, at risk of losing their lives. With the French authorities planning to dismantle the camp, life is only likely to get harder for these vulnerable children.
It is critical that we in the UK ensure that unaccompanied children with a legal right to be here are kept safe while they wait. This means working with France to ensure children are moved out of the camp before the bulldozers arrive, and into a safe place where they have access to the legal support and social care they need.
We must ensure that it is the authorities and the law that help these children, and not the criminals who would put them in the back of trucks or leave them to take their own chances. We know how seriously you take this issue and we want you to know you have our full support to act to ensure these children learn their legal rights to be with their family and get to be with them safely and quickly. We can do more to help these children and in doing so we will defeat the traffickers.
Above all, as Conservatives, we must champion the role of the family in resolving this refugee crisis. Family reunion is the best tool we have for offering a legal and safe way to get unaccompanied children back into the arms of their family and out of the hands of the traffickers. We must ensure we do all we can to use the love and power of the family to keep children safe.