Young demonstrators gather outside Parliament in London Oct. 24 to call for more child refugees to be allowed asylum and safe passage to the United Kingdom. CNS photo/Mary Turner, Reuters

U.K. bishops make appeal for child refugees

  • December 13, 2017

MANCHESTER, England – U.K. Catholic leaders urged the British government to accept more child refugees from northern France after reports that hundreds of young people are being forced to sleep outdoors in low temperatures.

An English and a Scottish bishop said the situation of migrants waiting in the French port of Calais for the opportunity to cross the English Channel into the United Kingdom had become increasingly perilous since the clearance of an illegal migrants’ camp known as “The Jungle” a year ago. They urged the government to relax rules that limit the number of child refugees the U.K. will accept from France.

“Whilst the camp has closed, young migrants remain,” said Bishop William Nolan, president of Justice and Peace Scotland, and Auxiliary Bishop Paul McAleenan, spokesman on migrants and asylum seekers for the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
“Their situation is now much worse,” they said in a statement. “These young people are forced to sleep rough, which at this time of year, as temperatures fall, is of great concern.

“We urge the authorities to recognize that these are our fellow human beings, regardless of their status, and that their intrinsic dignity must be upheld,” they added. “Of particular concern are unaccompanied minors whose rights as children must be recognized by both French and U.K. authorities.”

The bishops said the government should “embrace the spirit of the Dubs Amendment,” introduced with the aim of rescuing child migrants from France, and to extend its provisions to meet the demands of the present crisis.

The amendment to the 2016 Immigration Act takes its name from Alfred Dubs, the Labor member of the House of Lords who introduced it.

Lord Dubs, who is Jewish, had been rescued from Czechoslovakia as a child shortly before the country was overrun by Nazi Germany and was given a new home in Britain. His measure was intended to find new homes for about 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees but was scrapped by the government in February after it decided to accept just 480 of them into Britain.

A legal challenge against the cap was dismissed by the High Court in November. The government has consistently argued that taking migrants from France perpetuated human trafficking, and that it preferred to relocate some 23,000 refugees into the U.K. directly from camps in the Middle East.

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