We are delighted to announce that we have been granted permission to appeal the judgment on our judicial review, challenging the Home Office’s interpretation and implementation of the Dubs Amendment. Our litigation, supported by the voices of people like you, has already achieved significant victories. This appeal now gives us the opportunity to bring a greater number of unaccompanied children to safety in the UK.
With your support, we successfully advocated for the passage of the Dubs Amendment in May 2016 – named after our dear friend Lord Alf Dubs, a former child refugee who arrived to the UK on a Kindertransport train. The scheme pledged to resettled a “specified number” of unaccompanied refugee children from France, Greece and Italy to the UK, to be decided in consultation with Local Authorities. We had seen the conditions that the children were living in, from Calais to Lesvos and beyond: we knew that opening safe and legal routes would save lives.
However, the passage of the Amendment was followed by governmental inaction: between May and October 2016, not a single child was transferred under the Dubs Amendment. Even now, more than half of the identified spaces remain unfilled – meaning that eligible children have needlessly spent two winters sleeping in camps, or on the streets.
Our legal challenge, which was heard in June last year, centred around three issues. First, we argued that the consultative process by which the “specified number” was reached was seriously defective. Our evidence demonstrated that some local authorities were unaware that a consultation was taking place, that the consultation regarded the Dubs Amendment, or that there was a cut-off date by which places should have been identified. As a result of the latter, 91% of places offered by Scottish authorities and 86% of Welsh offers were discounted. Consequently, Scotland and Wales – with a joint population of approximately 8.5 million people – were recorded by the Home Office as having offered to resettle just 12 children between them (around one child per 700,000 inhabitants).
Second, we argued that the Home Office had failed to move with the necessary speed. The wording of the Dubs Amendment stipulated that arrangements for the children’s transfer should be made ‘as soon as possible after the passing of this Act.’ Yet it was six months before the first transfer from France took place, ten months before the “specified number” was declared, and twenty months before the first child from Greece was brought to the UK. To this day, not a single child has been relocated from Italy.
Third, we challenged the lack of procedural safeguards given to unaccompanied children who were deemed ineligible for relocation. The unaccompanied children formerly living in the so-called “Jungle” in Calais were told orally, often in groups, and without explanation, that they had been refused relocation to the UK. This was confusing and traumatic for young people who had already gone through so much.
In November 2017, the High Court ruled against us on all counts – though certain concessions were made. The judgment found that the consultation was a “quick broad-brush exercise” using a “fairly crude tool”, for example. We immediately sought permission to appeal, which was granted last week.
“The Dubs Amendment has provided a lifeline for over 200 children so far – but this appeal gives us the chance to bring a greater number to safety. The conditions faced by unaccompanied refugee children are dreadful. The government promised to act, but after nearly 2 years, they have failed to fulfil their promise to the British people – and to these vulnerable children. This appeal gives us the chance to hold them to account, and offer sanctuary to those in Europe who need it most.”
The dangers faced by unaccompanied children are no less severe now, than they were at the time the Amendment was passed. In Calais, approximately 200 children are currently sleeping without any shelter. Refugees have reported that their blankets and possessions are regularly seized by police or sprayed with tear gas, rendering them unusable. These unbearable conditions are pushing refugees to take greater risks in attempting to reach the UK: in three weeks, between late December and the start of this year, three people lost their lives at the border – including a 15-year-old boy.
In Greece, there are over 3350 unaccompanied minors – and only 1101 places available in shelters. The waiting list is, therefore, more than twice the total capacity. Children who are not offered formal protection are sleeping in squats and on the streets, leaving them at acute risk of exploitation.
In Italy, more than 15, 000 lone children arrived just last year. As in Greece, a lack of reception capacity means that children are left without shelter or basic protection. Furthermore, a significant proportion of children go missing after registration, many suspected of having fallen victim to criminal trafficking networks or the exploitative world of forced or black-market labour.
These vulnerable children face unimaginable risks. This appeal could give a greater number of them the chance to come to the UK, and begin a new life here: safe from the exploitative rings of smugglers and traffickers, and away from the streets and detention centres.
The consultation with local authorities took place almost a year ago. Defective then, it is also likely that the circumstances have since changed. This appeal could result in that process being repeated, giving local authorities the opportunity to submit a true representation of their capacity. We have the opportunity to offer sanctuary and protection to some of the most vulnerable children in Europe today: we must use it.
Help Refugees has launched a fundraiser on CrowdJustice, to raise the funds for our Protection of Costs order. The public support for the Dubs Amendment has always astounded us, and we felt that it was right for this case to be something we could all do – together. Can you help us cover the costs of our appeal? As ever, we are so grateful for your support. Thank you.
Photo credit to Rob Pinney.