James GRAY   Conservative MP for North Wiltshire

During yesterday’s urgent question to ask the Home Secretary for a statement on the Calais Jungle James Gray voiced his concern for the safety of the children in the camp, saying:  “There can be no doubting the Home Secretary’s compassion or her determination to do something about this appalling problem for up to 400 children who have a perfect right to come here. I congratulate the Government on doing more this year than last year, as the numbers have gone up significantly. None the less, this is a major crisis, and the camp will be cleared within days. It appears that there has been huge bureaucratic confusion in France. Documents have been lost; apparently, there are only four French officials in the camp, which is poor. It is time for the British Government to set up a taskforce, with British officials working with French officials, which should go to the camp, sort out these people, find out who they are, and bring them back.”

In response, the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, voiced her agreement, saying that “We have certainly noticed a significant uplift in the effort, people, time and professional commitment that the French are willing to put in. Because they are moving closer to clearing the camps, they are now very keen to work with us and help us to identify the children whom we can legally take over, and my hon. Friend should be in no doubt that we are working closely with them to ensure that we can do that with all possible speed.”

This statement in the Commons followed a recent open letter to the Home Secretary from a number of Conservative MPs including Mr Gray. The letter reiterated that “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.”

 

 

James Gray MP's exchange with the Home Secretary:

CALAIS JUNGLE

Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con)

(Urgent Question): To ask the Home Secretary for a statement on the Calais Jungle in the light of its imminent demolition and the urgent need to provide safety for children who have a family link in the United Kingdom or in whose best interests it is to be here.

Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con)

There can be no doubting the Home Secretary’s compassion or her determination to do something about this appalling problem for up to 400 children who have a perfect right to come here. I congratulate the Government on doing more this year than last year, as the numbers have gone up significantly. None the less, this is a major crisis, and the camp will be cleared within days. It appears that there has been huge bureaucratic confusion in France, and dockets have been lost. Apparently, there are only four French officials in the camp, which is poor. It is time for the British Government to set up a taskforce, with British officials working with French officials, which should go to the camp, sort out these people, find out who they are, and bring them back.

 

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Amber Rudd)

We have certainly noticed a significant uplift in the effort, people, time and professional commitment that the French are willing to put in. Because they are moving closer to clearing the camps, they are now very keen to work with us and help us to identify the children whom we can legally take over, and my hon. Friend should be in no doubt that we are working closely with them to ensure that we can do that with all possible speed.

 

 

Full text of the 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.