The Prime Minster has refused point blank to take unaccompanied child refugees from European camps because he fears more of them will risk their lives in crossing the sea to get to Europe, in a letter to MP Alex Cunningham.
And the Member for Stockton North has condemned the Government’s response to the continued refugee crisis as woefully inadequate, suggesting the problems being faced must be reconsidered if Britain is to fulfil its duty in tackling the ongoing emergency.
The Labour MP was responding after finally receiving a reply from the Prime Minister, having written to 10 Downing Street over two months ago to implore the Government to do more to help the thousands of unaccompanied children reaching European shores.
The Prime Minister indicated his continued reluctance to accept more refugees into the UK, suggesting that such measures will not help resolve the crisis but would risk encouraging more people “including unaccompanied children” to make perilous journeys to Europe.
So far this year, children have made up a quarter of all those seeking refuge in Europe. Unaccompanied children, without the support or protection of family, are the most vulnerable group amongst refugees and migrants, being at great risk of exploitation and abuse. Of the 13,000 unaccompanied children who arrived in Italy in 2014, some 4,000 have disappeared.
“David Cameron’s approach to these legitimate concerns is nothing short of lamentable. Suggesting that doing our bit by offering refuge to more of those fleeing for their lives will entice more people to make the journey is regrettably ill-informed.
“Many of those refugees reaching Europe have already survived an ordeal unimaginable to many of us, both from the violence besieging Syria and in making the treacherous crossing itself. To imply that anyone making the decision to escape does so lightly is shameful, and highlights the gulf in opinion between the Government and the general public.
“Labour has long been calling for the UK to do more to help Syrian refugees. While it is to be welcomed that David Cameron has now bowed to pressure and acknowledged Britain needs to do its bit, the Government’s action on refugees nonetheless fails miserably to match up to the scale or immediacy of the crisis we are facing. And providing this vital support does not allow us to turn our heads away from the thousands who have fled war and persecution and already arrived in Europe.
“It is time that the Prime Minister opened his eyes to the realities of the situation and recognised that Britain is shirking its responsibilities. We need to do more to pull our weight, and that should start with unaccompanied children. I hope that David Cameron, along with the Home Secretary, will have a change of heart and re-think his Government’s decision.”