Rob Lawrie — Question

– in the House of Lords at 3:13 pm on 17th November 2015.

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Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench 3:13 pm, 17th November 2015

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they are making to the French authorities about the case of Mr Rob Lawrie, arrested in France for attempting to rescue a refugee child and to bring her to her relatives in the United Kingdom.

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has been in contact with the French authorities regarding Mr Lawrie’s arrest. It is ready to provide consular assistance to Mr Lawrie, should he request this. However, we cannot interfere with another country’s police investigation or judicial proceedings.

Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

I thank the Minister for his reply. Rob Lawrie, a former soldier now facing five years in prison, rescued a four year-old girl from the jungle camp at Calais. In the words of the petition now signed by 100,000 people, were these not the actions of

“an ordinary man who was trying to do the right thing in extraordinary circumstances”?

As we recoil in horror at the atrocities committed in Paris, and witness the many shocking consequences of mass migration, what are we doing to prioritise—as he tried to do—the special plight of children, thousands of whom are now reported to have gone missing and who have been caught up in events entirely beyond their control?

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the noble Lord raises an incredibly important point. I am sure that the thought of all these children who have gone missing is quite appalling to all noble Lords. The noble Lord also refers to the Save the Children proposals. We looked very seriously at them but major international organisations, such as UNHCR, advised caution on relocating unaccompanied children. This is why the Dublin Regulations are so important in relation to the children who have come into Europe. It is important that we register and give identities to these children who find themselves on our shores.

Photo of Baroness Masham of Ilton Baroness Masham of Ilton Crossbench

My Lords, has the child been reunited with her family?

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, as I understand the situation, the child’s father is in Calais. However, I cannot give any more information at the moment, so I will write to the noble Baroness.

Photo of Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Labour

My Lords, as we have discussed before in the Chamber, not only is the situation dire for these children when they arrive in Europe, it is dire when they arrive in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, as well as in Iraq. Does the Minister agree that the United Kingdom bears a special responsibility to those children who have been born in Iraq since 2003 and who face the prospect of not having permanent schooling, being internally displaced, or living in fear of ISIL and other threats? Do the United Kingdom Government intend to support those children through UNICEF and other organisations to make sure that they have better opportunities in the future?

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the noble Lord makes some very pertinent points relating to children to Iraq. With regard to the Syrian resettlement scheme, the noble Lord and the whole House will be glad to hear that children and adolescents are being especially looked at for resettlement in the United Kingdom.

Photo of Lord Roberts of Llandudno Lord Roberts of Llandudno Liberal Democrat

Does the Minister agree that of the 10,000 children who have arrived in Italy, some 4,000 have gone missing? The situation we face today is very different from any that we have faced in the past, and that means that a rethink is needed by our Government, especially when they bring forward proposals in the new Immigration Bill. We must remember that children are our special concern. Lloyd George said that he wanted to build a world fit for heroes to live in; we want to build one fit for children to live in.

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

The noble Lord is quite right. I have not seen the figures he referred to, but obviously children are important for our future. I know that my colleagues in the department will be keeping a close watch on this debate.

Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

My Lords, will the Government ensure that an excessive burden of unaccompanied children does not fall on the county of Kent, where so many have been concentrated? Further, will they make sure that those children who have been taken in to local authority care do not then go missing?

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I understand that we are working on a redistribution, and I know that this is something which my honourable friend in another place, Mr Richard Harrington, is looking at.

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, following on from the question of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, the Minister will be aware that outcomes for looked-after children in this country are not especially good, and one might suspect that children who have had a particularly rotten start in life as refugees from a war zone are more vulnerable than most. What will the Government do to ensure that those children are looked after in a way that ensures that they have a good outcome for their adulthood?

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

I apologise, but I did not catch the whole of the question. It is our duty to do as much as possible to help these children and thus ensure their futures. I will write to the noble Baroness if there is anything more I can add.

Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

My Lords, I think that the Minister referred to the report from Save the Children when he responded to the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno. Will he undertake to meet representatives of Save the Children to discuss that report? As the noble Lord correctly said, it has identified some 10,000 children arriving in Italy in one recent year, 4,000 of whom have gone missing. I know that the noble Lord shares my concern about the actual implications of going missing.

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I will pass on that question to the Minister whose responsibility that is, if the noble Lord finds that acceptable.

Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Liberal Democrat Shadow Attorney General, Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Wales)

My Lords, is the Minister aware that at the moment an exhibition in Prague runs the length of Wenceslas Square about the children who were brought to this country in 1938 by Sir Nicholas Winton in that magnificent humanitarian gesture of his? No other country would take those children. Is it not time that this Government adopted a similar principle towards the children who are clamouring for help in Europe at the moment?

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

The noble Lord reminds the House of the great work that was done at that period. The whole point is to try to stop these children making the journey in the first place. This is what we are working at through the departmental work and, particularly, with what has been happening in Valletta recently, where we have been concentrating on the Valletta action plan, which is to get people work and sustainable lives in their own countries.