Unaccompanied children: compassionately investing in our future

Children by their very nature need love, care and protection. Lord Alf Dub’s amendment to the immigration act, which ensured Theresa May’s government let in the most vulnerable people from countries such as Syria, was a firm step in the right direction.

refugees

However, the programs closure has caused some division and tensions on the matter.

Supporting unaccompanied children should always be a priority in any society as per International and domestic laws due to the need for urgent and immediate safeguarding.

This attitude does not incentivise unaccompanied child refugees to come to UK or anywhere else as much as it puts into perspective and projects our societal values and adherence to international laws to which we have committed ourselves as a nation.

Unaccompanied children arrive with a host of support needs, most pressing of which would be finding their family or re-establishing contact with loved ones.

Most of us can only imagine the hardship of leaving one’s home and following a dangerous route to safety but this is most certainly amplified when we factor in that it’s also a child that is experiencing this. In all my conversations with refugees, there was never one that left home out of choice and it is sometimes easy for people to forget this.

Given that violence, terrorism and bad governance are the main drivers of refugee movement globally, it is important to understand it is not just the number of refuges accepted or resettled that are crucial, but how they are supported in in their new homes to integrate effectively into society.

Social exclusion and the resulting poverty and isolation is arguably an extension of the refugees suffering albeit in a safer environment.

The wide ranging reactions to the ending of the child refugee program made clear there is a great amount of support for welcoming refugees to the UK from all sectors of society including the church and local authorities.

However, on refugee matters across Europe, the debate has become dominated by populism guided by stereotypes and in some cases, plain lies.

This can be overcome if there is open and public discussions of immigration and those that have successfully arrived in the UK are resettled and integrated effectively so they can contribute to their new communities positively.

The arrivals of refugees in general coincides with a declining and aging European population. The child refugees of today are the future labour force and entrepreneurs who will sustain the progress and prosperity of their new homes. Therefore, allowing them in and integrating them successfully makes enormous sense

At a European Level, the Dublin Regulation has put much of the burden on a few Member States and annual quotas are still unpopular and not adopted.

Therefore, it is important local governments, service providers and other partners in the refugee discussions continue to take an active role in informing and influencing policies so the best solutions can be found to one of the most crucial national and international challenges of our time.

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