11.6.2020: Safe Passage writes: we would be so grateful if you would consider adding your name to the letter, helping us show the PM the strength of interfaith support for welcoming more refugees. It is pasted below
If, after reading the open letter you/ any others would like to add your names, please do reply to Safe Passage by email email@example.com, including the full title by which you would like to be referred to in the list of signatories
In addition, please do not hesitate to forward this on to any other contacts you may have that might be interested in signing.
With Refugee Week starting on 15th June, we are setting an initial deadline for signatures of the 11thJune.The exact date for publication of the letter is yet to be decided and will depend on when we are most likely to generate public and press interest, but we will of course keep you updated as things progress.
[QARN has agreed to sign this letter]
Dear Prime Minister,
Firstly, may we congratulate you on the UK government’s collaboration with the Greek government in organising a flight to allow 47 refugees waiting in Greece to reunite with their loved ones here. This is a true example of the UK’s humanitarian leadership.
We are writing to you today to ask if you will build on that humanitarian spirit, by offering sanctuary to unaccompanied children stranded in Europe.
More than 1,600 unaccompanied children1 remain stuck on the Greek islands – they have escaped war, persecution, and poverty only to find themselves now trapped in desperate conditions, with little or no access to the most basic necessities. Water, shelter, food, and toilets are in scarce supply and with many children already unwell, they are also at heightened risk of Covid-19 infection. These children are at a severe risk of trafficking, sexual exploitation, and violence, and are surviving in circumstances that no child should experience2. Heartbreakingly, an increasing number of these children are attempting suicide and self-harm.
Inaction in the face of such deprivation and suffering is not an option. Now, more than ever, the UK must step in and offer sanctuary to children in urgent need.
Last October, the Greek Government called upon European states to urgently evacuate unaccompanied children and earlier this year the EU commission pledged funding to help3. 47 children have been welcomed to Germany4 and 12 to Luxembourg5 with 11 other European countries including Switzerland, France, and Ireland all pledging places. So far Portugal has led the way, offering 500 places6.
Even in challenging times, the UK has always remained a place of sanctuary for those seeking refuge, from the Kindertransport to the more recent Vulnerable Person’s Resettlement Scheme, and we urge you to build on this proud tradition by urgently resettling some of the world’s most vulnerable children, giving them a chance to rebuild their lives in safety in the UK.
Furthermore, with the ‘Dubs scheme’ over7 and with child refugees losing their access to family reunion after we exit the EU8, very soon there could be no safe, legal routes for child refugees in Europe to seek sanctuary in the UK.
As a signatory to the Global Compact on Refugees and one of the world’s richest countries, seeking to build and demonstrate global cooperation and goodwill, we have a moral duty to act. Up and down the country, communities are ready to help – a campaign led by Lord Alf Dubs and the charity Safe Passage has secured pledges from UK councils for over 1,400 places for child refugees9. If you agree to give these children a safe route by extending the Global Resettlement Scheme to Europe, councils are ready to welcome them.
Right now, we face an unprecedented and difficult time in the UK – but we believe it is precisely during these dark times that we must show our global solidarity and leadership to others in need.
All the faiths we represent embrace solidarity with those who are suffering and advocate a profound responsibility to alleviate that suffering. We call on the government to embrace that humanitarian spirit and as our Prime Minister, we urge you to act now and offer child refugees safe passage.
We call upon you to firstly meet with Safe Passage and faith representatives to discuss the urgent need to relocate vulnerable children from the Greek islands and to ensure an ongoing safe route for unaccompanied children without family in the UK, and secondly to ensure child refugees can continue to reunite with their family members in the UK after the end of the transition agreement.
. Here is the suggested letter from Safe Passage::
Dear [recipient name will go here],
I am dismayed that the Government’s draft proposal for refugee family reunion is so woefully inadequate.
I am writing to ask you to raise my concerns with the Government about their current negotiation strategy and asking that you oppose the Government’s plans.
In particular, I have concerns that the current plans would make family reunion entirely discretionary, and child refugees might only be reunited with family at the whim of national governments. In addition, the plans offer no way to challenge decisions – something that is sadly all too often necessary as the UK Home Office routinely makes poor decisions which leave children alone without families for many months. And finally, crucial protections including strict legal deadlines available currently are missing from this new proposal.
I am afraid that if this plan becomes law, it would be the end of family reunion as we know it.
In Europe, there are thousands of unaccompanied child refugees living in the most appalling of conditions. Legal family reunion is a lifeline to these children who would otherwise risk their lives in boats or in the back of lorries in order to reach the UK and be with their family. By diminishing a child’s chances of reaching their relatives legally, this plan would be a blank cheque for people smugglers.
This is not what the Prime Minister promised vulnerable refugees when he removed protections for them from the EU bill in January. The Government must think again with its proposal to the EU and deliver an agreement that doesn’t risk hundreds of children being denied the ability to reunite with family and left alone in camps.
[your name will go here]
[your email address will go here] [your location will go here]
PS. the current plans for family reunion can be found here – (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/886020/DRAFT_Agreement_on_the_transfer_of_unaccompanied_asylum-seeking_children.pdf)