Calais: Child Refugees - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:50 pm on 29th February 2016.

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Photo of Lord Bates Lord Bates The Minister of State, Home Department 5:50 pm, 29th February 2016

I am grateful to the noble Lord for his questions. Dealing first with the time that it takes to process such applications, I say that nine months is clearly too long. That is one reason why we have announced that a senior Border Force officer is going to be embedded in the interior ministry in France to ensure that particularly the Dublin family reunion cases are processed as quickly as possible. We hope that that situation will improve.

The noble Lord asked what we are doing to ensure that children do not fall prey to the trafficking gangs. The evidence from Europol is that 90% of those who come to Europe have paid a criminal gang to do so. We know that those gangs are a serious threat and are operating in that area. One reason we are putting so much emphasis on the hotspots is that we want especially children but all asylum seekers to be processed as soon as they come into the EU. There are five hotspots in Greece and another seven in Italy. The Home Secretary has asked Kevin Hyland, the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, to go out to those areas with a child protection officer to see what more can be done for children.

In relation to the UNHCR, of course that has a wider remit around the world for those who are seeking asylum under the refugee convention. We are working very closely with it, particularly on the initiative announced by the Prime Minister in relation to the 3,000 identified by Save the Children as to what more can be done with them. The UNHCR is looking at a solution to that and we are expecting an answer from it in the next couple of weeks.