Child Refugees in Europe

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:23 pm on 25th January 2016.

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Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration) 4:23 pm, 25th January 2016

This country can be proud of the record that we have maintained and the work that we are doing to provide aid and assistance to vulnerable people in the region. Some £1.1 billion has been committed.

I say to the right hon. Gentleman that we are working closely with the UNHCR on the resettlement programme and in our consideration of this issue of children. The UNHCR and UNICEF have made it very clear that the best way to help children is to work in the region itself, because that is often where the connections with family are.

The right hon. Gentleman highlighted the issue of Europe. We are acting in solidarity in Europe by providing expertise to the European Asylum Support Office; providing support to Frontex for the search and rescue operations; and supporting Europol and the activities in the Mediterranean to confront the people traffickers and smugglers to deal with this issue at the border. We are also working beyond the borders of Europe in the source and transit countries to provide the long-term stability and security that are fundamental to dealing with all of this.

We have to be very careful that the stance that we take does not make an extraordinarily difficult situation even worse. We know that the people traffickers exploit anything that we say and twist it in a perverse manner to encourage more people to travel and put more lives at risk. That is why we are looking at this issue very closely to determine what is in the best interests of the child, to ensure that more lives are not put at risk and to see how we can support this activity. I have highlighted the direct support that we are giving to provide aid and assistance to children and refugees in flight across Europe and in the Balkans.

The combination of approaches that we have taken sets a clear record, but as I have indicated, we continue to look at this issue very closely.