10 July 2017: Inquiry finds that instead of protecting children who have fled to Europe for safety, Government is failing them. Police violence has taught these children to fear the authorities who should be protecting them, leaving the way open for smugglers and those who want to exploit them, including traffickers.
Rt Hon Fiona Mactaggart and Baroness Butler-Sloss GBE were alerted to the serious risks of trafficking and exploitation facing children in parts of Europe who are feeling countries where they feel unsafe, when they were Co- Chairs of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Trafficking and Modern Slavery (APPG). When the General Election was called, dissolving the APPG they agreed that the dangers facing these children were too great to expect them to wait. Instead they agreed that the Human Trafficking Foundation would sponsor the inquiry, allowing it to continue.
The inquiry found no evidence that providing a safe route for children to travel to the UK acted as a ‘pull factor’ or encouraged traffickers. Instead the evidence showed that leaving children without safe and legal options left them in limbo, stranded in dangerous and often violent situations. In many instances this resulted in children turning to smugglers, putting themselves at risk of dangerous journeys and of exploitation to pay the smugglers.
The overwhelming evidence of violence inflicted by the French police on children is one of the more shocking findings of this inquiry, whether it be the indiscriminate use of truncheons and tear gassing of children and their sleeping bags. Children are denied access to showers, shelter or anywhere to store their belongings.
Inquiry recommendations include:
– The UK works with European counterparts to ensure that in all cases safeguarding is prioritised and the rights of the child and the child’s best interest are upheld.
– The British Government must ensure that any so called ‘security measures’, funded by the British Taxpayer, including outside of its own borders, operate in conformity with child protection and human rights principles and that in no cases are we contributing financially or otherwise toward physical or mental violence towards children.
– The ‘Dubs scheme’, or Section 67 of the Immigration Act, needs to be open to children in practice and more children need to be included. This will require expanding the criteria so that it doesn’t exclude vulnerable children due to their age or nationality and a revised cut off date. Most urgent is quick and transparent processing of these applications. The administration of the Dubs scheme requires multi-agency teams of specialists on the ground where most children are located, including Calais and Dunkirk to build confidence in safe routes and resistance to traffickers.
Read the full report HTF Separated & Unaccompanied Minors Report [Hi-Res].pdf