Calais: Refugees - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:59 pm on 2nd November 2017.

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Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench 3:59 pm, 2nd November 2017

My Lords, I urge Her Majesty’s Government to listen carefully to the NGOs working in northern France. By day and night, all year round, they provide food, clothing, bedding and first aid to refugees. I know of six British NGOs and at least two French ones. Their personnel have sometimes been harassed by the French security forces. They have seen refugees being teargassed and pepper sprayed, as has been mentioned. We must hope that the criticisms by the French courts and the French ombudsman will lead to less brutal policies. The number of refugees sleeping rough has already been given by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, so I shall not repeat it. It is not large.

The French Government could help by identifying unaccompanied children for the protection and shelter they deserve. France should consider providing refugee application points nearer to Calais and Dunkirk—that point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. Her Majesty’s Government could do more for unaccompanied children in Europe and Turkey. Our embassies and consulates could be welcoming reference points working with the UNHCR to identify children who may qualify for reasons of family reunion or extreme vulnerability to come to this country.

We need far better co-operation in this field between statutory and voluntary agencies, our two Governments and the UN agencies. We could make far better use of sponsorships by families here of other families or unaccompanied children who could come here. There is a Canadian model for this to work on. It is not sufficient for our Government to say that we have one or two liaison officers in certain European countries. That will not solve the problem.