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Thursday, 29 June 2017

Child refugees entitled to come to UK 'wandering around France living hand-to-mouth'

Written by Trevor Mason

Unaccompanied child refugees entitled to come to the UK are still "wandering around France", ministers in the Lords have been told.

Liberal Democrat Baroness Sheehan said the "chaotic" demolition of the Jungle camp in Calais had led to the dispersal of hundreds of unaccompanied minors to centres around France.

She warned at question time that a good number of them, with legal rights to come to the UK, were still "wandering around France living a hand-to-mouth existence".

Home Office minister Baroness Williams of Trafford said that if a child was in France, he or she was the responsibility of the French authorities.

But she said the Government was willing to help in the process of resettling children and asked the peer to pass on evidence of cases to her.

Independent crossbencher and former lord justice of appeal Baroness Butler-Sloss said she had been to Calais and talked to priests who were being tear-gassed with the children.

She said Northern Ireland had not been asked to take any of the children but had expressed a willingness to do so.

Lady Williams said it was "very regrettable" if children were being tear-gassed and agreed to follow up the point raised.

She said more than 900 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children were transferred to the UK from Europe in 2016, and ministers were fully committed to implementing rules under the Immigration Act.

Labour's Lord Dubs, the architect of the Dubs amendment which requires the Government to relocate unaccompanied refugee children from Europe, asked if he was right in thinking the Government had changed its policy from before the election of setting a cap on numbers of children coming to the UK at 480.

Lady Williams said the figure set before the election was based on the capacity of local authorities to accommodate the children and was now 480.

It wasn't "so much a cap as the ability of local authorities" to be able to accommodate the children but the Government's "doors" were open for councils to come and say they can accommodate more, she told peers.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Gareth Fuller / PA Wire.