Refugee Children: Dubs or Dublin?
You may have heard the news that a small number of children have arrived in the UK from the Calais refugee camp.
These children have been brought to the UK under the Dublin Regulation, which obliges our country to take in unaccompanied children with certain family members here, when it is in their best interest.
But there is a separate second safe route to the UK, spearheaded by Lord Alf Dubs and accepted by the Government in May, that could provide a lifeline for lone children without family members in this country.
While the Government is finally making progress under Dublin, not a single child has yet been brought to the UK under the Dubs scheme – nearly six months later.
The terms ‘Dubs’ and ‘Dublin’ have been freely and frequently confused and conflated by politicians and press in recent weeks.
So what are the UK’s obligations to the children of Calais?
What is the Dublin Regulation?
The Dublin III Regulation is used to establish which member state is responsible for determining the claims of those seeking sanctuary in the EU.
It recognises the importance of upholding the family unity of asylum seekers and – in particular – the need for lone children to be reunited with their families.
First and foremost, the Regulation requires that “where the applicant is an unaccompanied minor, the Member State responsible shall be that where a family member [father, mother or another responsible adult], or a sibling of the unaccompanied minor is legally present, provided that is in the best interests of the child.”
Where a child doesn’t have such a close family member in an EU country, but does have an aunt, uncle or grandparent able to take care of him or her, the child’s claim should be considered in the country where that relative is resident, provided this in in the child’s best interests.
In Parliament last week, the Home Secretary committed to bring “as many minors as possible under the Dublin regulation before clearance commences” – and 14 children were transported from the dangerous and soon to be demolished Calais camp in the last few days.
With each child brought from that desolate place to safety here, the Government chips away at the official reticence blocking the legal right of these children to join their families.
But with more than a thousand lone children in the camp, now is the time for a major breakthrough – not a slow trickle.
What is the Dubs scheme?
Lord Dubs’ amendment to the Immigration Act requires the Home Secretary – as soon as possible after the Act passed in May – to make arrangements to relocate to the UK, and provide support to, a specified number of unaccompanied refugee children from other countries in Europe.
Under the Dubs scheme – unlike under Dublin – children are not required to have family members in the UK.
The Dubs scheme could be implemented under an optional provision of the Dublin Regulation, which lets a member state take responsibility for an individual –including a child with no family in this country. It could also be fulfilled by a separate agreement with the country where children are staying.
The number of children to be resettled is left for the Government to decide in consultation with local authorities. The Government has specified that unaccompanied asylum-seeking children will be resettled from Greece, Italy and France, where they arrived in Europe before 20 March 2016 and it is in their best interests to come here.
The Home Office made clear in July that, under Dubs, they are “targeting children at risk who need to be resettled and will not be restricting the scope of the policy only to those we are obliged to accept under Dublin”.
Last week, the Home Secretary confirmed to Parliament that “the children that can be dealt with under the Dublin arrangements are not, by any means, all the children we want to take…” – but she gave no details about how many and how quickly children eligible under Dubs will be transferred, saying only that they must be looked after in safe facilities in France.
How you can help
Not one child has yet been brought to our shores under the Dubs scheme, despite the Government’s promises. Councils across the country stand ready and willing to support these vulnerable children – but the Government has yet to provide any details of how they intend to fund or implement the scheme.
Liberty’s campaign Protect Refugee Children is urging local councillors to sign a Statement of Support, showing that they want to play their part and demanding that the Government provide clear details of how the necessary funding and infrastructure will be provided.
Please write to your councillors today and send a strong message to the Government – the time to act is now.
Liberty is supporting an amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill, currently working its way through Parliament, designed to ensure proper provision is made for the safeguarding of children identified for inclusion in the Dubs scheme. A full briefing on the amendment is here.