To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the joint report from the International Rescue Committee and 11 other organisations, Out of Sight, Exploited and Alone, concerning unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) in the Balkans, and its principal concerns of (1) insufficient and unreliable data or information management on UASC within the region, (2) a lack of options for safe accommodation and comprehensive services for UASC in line with each child’s best interests, (3) a lack of access to legal pathways, (4) a lack of cross-border case management to improve continuity of care and protection, and (5) exposure to exploitation, violence and trafficking, including as a result of smuggling and violent pushbacks.
The primary responsibility for unaccompanied children in Europe lies with the State in which they are present. We are committed to making sure that the Dublin III process works effectively to ensure that vulnerable asylum-seeking children receive the protection and support they need and are reunited as soon as possible with any close family members in the UK.
We regularly engage with the Governments in the Western Balkans region on migration and provide additional support to EU Member States hosting large numbers of unaccompanied children to promote their welfare. The UK has established a £10 million Refugee Children’s Fund to support the needs of vulnerable children arriving in Europe and prioritises the needs of unaccompanied and separated children travelling through Greece and the Balkans. Support includes specialised shelters which offer 24 hour care, including psychosocial support, educational activities and legal assistance.
Since October 2015, we have provided more than £17.2 million in humanitarian assistance for refugees and migrants in the Balkans. This has provided life-saving assistance (shelter, water and sanitation, hot and cold food, medical care and protection) for the most vulnerable migrants and refugees; as well as enhanced data for better migration management and support for durable solutions.
The UK has allocated £8 million to a new Women and Girls Protection Fund which will protect girl and women refugees in Greece and the Balkans by providing shelters as a safe alternative to camp environments and strengthening national counter-trafficking mechanisms.