Cooper calls for UK to do more to help child refugees in Calais camp

Yvette Cooper MP.
Yvette Cooper MP.

Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper has branded the UK Government “shamefully slow” to help child refugees to be reunited with their families after visiting migrant camps in Calais.

Ms Cooper, who chairs Labour’s refugee task force, criticised delays in allowing children alone in Calais to join family already in the UK.

Writing on Facebook, Ms Cooper said: “Charities estimate at least 200 of the children and teenagers here in Calais have relatives in the UK who could care for them, and under the Dublin rules should be in Britain.

“Most of those cases aren’t being processed at all, and those that are take far too long.

“They have family who could care for them, they don’t need foster care or care home places. Yet they are still stuck alone in grimy tents in an unsafe camp, at terrible risk of abuse or violence.”

Ms Cooper highlighted the case of one Syrian teenager who was told six weeks ago he could travel to Britain but no arrangements have yet been made.

She said the bureaucratic delays are “destroying kids lives”.

The former Shadow Home Secretary said: “Why is there not a Home Office official working in Calais to sort these cases out fast? Why is it still left up to charities such as Safe Passage and Citizens UK?

“Why even when the UK has accepted responsibility for a child to be reunited with family in the UK are they then having to wait weeks longer in this unsafe camp before being brought to safety in the UK?”

The Government resisted attempts earlier this year to force it to accept child refugees who had travelled to Europe on the grounds it did not want to encourage people to make the difficult journey. However, after a sustained campaign by Labour peer Lord Dubs, who was himself a refugee from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, the Government relented although it did not commit to the number of children it would help.