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Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

Help children in Calais now, urge British and French Greens

Citizens UK welcome refugees arriving in Britain from France

October 4, 2016

* International Greens condemn intolerable situation for unaccompanied children in letter to May and Hollande

Greens from both sides of the Channel have today expressed their dismay at the joint failure of the UK and French governments to take child refugees in camps in Calais to safety.

In a letter to UK Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Hollande, the nine UK and French Green Members of the European Parliament and the leaders of the UK and French Green parties [1], urge immediate action to protect unaccompanied children before the camps begin to be emptied.

The letters comes ahead of a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg which will again put the situation in Calais in the spotlight. Greens will use the debate to criticize the long-standing history of French failure to deliver effectively on its obligations, aided and abetted by a UK Government which is dragging its heels over the safety and security of children, including unaccompanied children who are entitled to be in the UK.

It also comes as British Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who has also received a copy of the letter, has offered warm words – but no new commitments – about child refugees at the Conservative Party conference.

Jean Lambert, MEP for London and Greens’ migration spokesperson said:

“My colleagues and I have again written to the relevant British and French authorities to ask them to do their job properly. Building walls displaces problems, it doesn’t solve them. That money would be better spent by the French and British governments on providing safety, information and choices for people in need and managing the asylum system in the region in a humane and dignified way.”

Keith Taylor, MEP for the South East, said.

“I empathise with the frustrations of local residents, hauliers, and travellers on both sides of the channel, but we must not abandon our legal and moral duties to approach this crisis with humanity.”

“Theresa May must reject the populist anti-refugee rhetoric and act to fulfil the UK’s moral and legal obligations. The government’s dereliction of duty is forcing children fleeing war into the arms of smugglers and traffickers. Immigration policies are systematically failing vulnerable children when child protection should be the guiding principle. History will not judge us favourably if we abandon our responsibility to these children.”

Molly Scott Cato, MEP for the South West, said:

“It is inexcusable that this intolerable situation is found on the border between two of the richest countries in the world. The UK government is using the limbo-land that desperate people find themselves in as an excuse for not fully implementing their obligations under international and EU law. Resorting to Trump-esque style wall building is wrong and it will fail. The solution is to enable the registration of refugee claims by those with a right to be in the UK in the French camps themselves and ensure that transfers take place speedily.

“The safety of unaccompanied children must be paramount and the UK and French authorities must immediately take such children to safety, and urgently find lasting, dignified, humane solutions to what is a shared responsibility for refugees and asylum seekers.”

Today’s debate is partly in response to a request to the European Commission from UK Green MEPs. The scope of the debate – originally tabled as being about the situation for hauliers – has been broadened to the humanitarian situation on request of the Greens.

UK Green MEPs wrote to the European Commission in June requesting a debate about the situation for asylum seekers in Northern France, and asking for it to appeal to the British and French Governments to protect the human rights of refugees in Europe.

In a response received last week, the Commission confirmed it is the responsibility of France to determine which country is responsible for examining an asylum seeker’s application, and the repsonsibiltiy of the UK to consider the applications of people with a family member already in the UK.

More than a year has passed since the UK Government committed to transfer 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children under the Dubs Amendment, yet a tiny few have arrived in the UK, and the processing of applications remains inexcusably slow.

Joint UK and French Greens letter about children in Calais, October 2016