Liberty | Refugee Children: Dubs or Dublin?

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17 October 2016

Refugee Children: Dubs or Dublin?

by Rachel Robinson

You may have heard the news that a small number of children have arrived in the UK from the Calais refugee camp.

These children have been brought to the UK under the Dublin Regulation, which obliges our country to take in unaccompanied children with certain family members here, when it is in their best interest.

But there is a separate second safe route to the UK, spearheaded by Lord Alf Dubs and accepted by the Government in May, that could provide a lifeline for lone children without family members in this country.

While the Government is finally making progress under Dublin, not a single child has yet been brought to the UK under the Dubs scheme – nearly six months later.

The terms ‘Dubs’ and ‘Dublin’ have been freely and frequently confused and conflated by politicians and press in recent weeks.

So what are the UK’s obligations to the children of Calais?

What is the Dublin Regulation?

The Dublin III Regulation is used to establish which member state is responsible for determining the claims of those seeking sanctuary in the EU.

It recognises the importance of upholding the family unity of asylum seekers and – in particular – the need for lone children to be reunited with their families.

First and foremost, the Regulation requires that “where the applicant is an unaccompanied minor, the Member State responsible shall be that where a family member [father, mother or another responsible adult], or a sibling of the unaccompanied minor is legally present, provided that is in the best interests of the child.”

Where a child doesn’t have such a close family member in an EU country, but does have an aunt, uncle or grandparent able to take care of him or her, the child’s claim should be considered in the country where that relative is resident, provided this in in the child’s best interests.

In Parliament last week, the Home Secretary committed to bring “as many minors as possible under the Dublin regulation before clearance commences” – and 14 children were transported from the dangerous and soon to be demolished Calais camp in the last few days.

With each child brought from that desolate place to safety here, the Government chips away at the official reticence blocking the legal right of these children to join their families.

But with more than a thousand lone children in the camp, now is the time for a major breakthrough – not a slow trickle.

What is the Dubs scheme?

Lord Dubs’ amendment to the Immigration Act requires the Home Secretary – as soon as possible after the Act passed in May – to make arrangements to relocate to the UK, and provide support to, a specified number of unaccompanied refugee children from other countries in Europe.

Under the Dubs scheme – unlike under Dublin – children are not required to have family members in the UK.

The Dubs scheme could be implemented under an optional provision of the Dublin Regulation, which lets a member state take responsibility for an individual –including a child with no family in this country. It could also be fulfilled by a separate agreement with the country where children are staying.

The number of children to be resettled is left for the Government to decide in consultation with local authorities. The Government has specified that unaccompanied asylum-seeking children will be resettled from Greece, Italy and France, where they arrived in Europe before 20 March 2016 and it is in their best interests to come here.

The Home Office made clear in July that, under Dubs, they are “targeting children at risk who need to be resettled and will not be restricting the scope of the policy only to those we are obliged to accept under Dublin”.

Last week, the Home Secretary confirmed to Parliament that “the children that can be dealt with under the Dublin arrangements are not, by any means, all the children we want to take…” – but she gave no details about how many and how quickly children eligible under Dubs will be transferred, saying only that they must be looked after in safe facilities in France.

How you can help

Not one child has yet been brought to our shores under the Dubs scheme, despite the Government’s promises. Councils across the country stand ready and willing to support these vulnerable children – but the Government has yet to provide any details of how they intend to fund or implement the scheme.

Liberty’s campaign Protect Refugee Children is urging local councillors to sign a Statement of Support, showing that they want to play their part and demanding that the Government provide clear details of how the necessary funding and infrastructure will be provided.

Please write to your councillors today and send a strong message to the Government – the time to act is now.

Liberty is supporting an amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill, currently working its way through Parliament, designed to ensure proper provision is made for the safeguarding of children identified for inclusion in the Dubs scheme.

A full briefing on the amendment is here.

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DCC | Report of the Leader of the Council on Syrian Refugee Resettlement

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County Council
Cabinet Member Report
6 October 2016

Report of the Leader of the Council on Syrian Refugee Resettlement

I have been asked to report, by Councillor Brazil on Syrian Refugee Resettlement and Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children.

Summary

The UK Government’s response to the displacement of millions of Syrians and the migrant crisis in Europe is based on four programmes. Three of these programmes are active and Devon is responding to all three, aiming to resettle at least 74 Syrian families over the next 4 years and to be able to be looking after at least 25 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children by the end of March 2017. The first few families and unaccompanied children have arrived in Devon.Finding sustainable, affordable housing for families and care placements for children is a major challenge.

Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Programme [SVPR}

The UK Government’s Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme aims to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees in the UK between 2015 and 2020. Local authorities volunteer to resettle families by finding sustainable and affordable housing and registering it with the Government. Devon’s city and district councils have taken individual decisions on the number of housing offers they feel able to make. At September 2016, Devon’s councils have pledged to accommodate at least 74 families. The first few families have arrived and have been settled in three districts. More arrivals are planned shortly.

Devon has formed a partnership to coordinate the Government-funded programme. This brings together city and district councils, Devon County Council, the NHS, Devon and Cornwall Police and partners in the voluntary and community sector. Devon County Council is coordinating the partnership and
has agreed to be accountable to the Government for the programme funding.

Syrian families are housed in private rented properties that the landlord has offered or agreed to rent to refugee families. The pace of resettlement therefore depends on the supply of sustainable and affordable housing from private landlords. The housing development teams of Devon’s city and district councils are working to stimulate this supply.

Before housing offers are made, the partnership assesses the potential impact on resources such as local school places. Families become eligible for resettlement due to some vulnerability or additional need, which may be medical, psychological or educational. When families are referred to us by the Government, Devon carries out a multi-disciplinary assessment of any additional needs to determine whether and how those needs could be met in the resettlement location.

Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children [UASC]

Apart from the Syrian Resettlement Programme, the Government has made commitments to bring unaccompanied children from the Middle East and Europe to the UK. There are three strands to the government’s commitment andDevon is playing its part in the actions that are under way.

1. National Transfer of Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children
The Government has asked local authorities to collaborate to take care of the children and young people who enter the country smuggled in lorries and by other means. Most of these young people are male teenagers, aged 15-17 years old, from a very wide range of countries across the Middle East and East Africa. These arrivals are currently concentrated in a small number of localauthorities including Kent, Croydon, and Northamptonshire.

The Government has agreed with local authorities across the UK to prioritise a “national transfer scheme” where the authorities in each region work together to receive and look after a proportion of all these young people. The scheme came into operation in July 2016. Devon is part of a coordinated regional response with all local authorities in the South West to receive children under the scheme.

Devon has already received a small number of children and will continue to do so as they are referred to us. The scheme focusses on responding to the flow of arrivals, so there is no simple target number of children. However Devon aims to be able to look after at least 25 unaccompanied children by the end of March 2017.

Unaccompanied children have a very wide variety of needs. Some will have seen or experienced terrible things; others may have been in contact with trafficking gangs and be at risk of falling into the hands of those gangs again.

There will not be a single best way of looking after them. We are working with existing and potential foster carers, as well as specialised organisations that have relevant experience and capacity to help. There is a great shortage of this experience and capacity across the country. We must also strengthen the capacity of our own staff in specific areas of expertise relevant to unaccompanied children, such as age assessment and understanding of asylum processes. We have mapped the existing expertise of staff and we are building an action plan to strengthen these areas.

As for any child in care, unaccompanied children have full access to universal services such as health and education. The Government provides funding to local authorities for looking after unaccompanied children. The funding rates under the national transfer scheme are 20%-30% higher than previous national rates. However the shortage of placements and the additional needs of unaccompanied children will put pressure even on the enhanced funding. programme. This brings together city and district councils, Devon County Council, the NHS, Devon and Cornwall Police and partners in the voluntary and community sector. Devon County Council is coordinating the partnership and has agreed to be accountable to the Government for the programme funding.

2. Resettlement of Children at Risk
In April, the Government announced a scheme to resettle “Children at risk”. This scheme aims to receive and support 3,000 people including vulnerable children who are in the Middle East and North Africa. The government expects that most of the children brought to the UK under this scheme will arrive with family members and will be resettled with that family, in a similar way to the Syrian Resettlement Programme. A minority will be unaccompanied and will be taken into the care of local authorities through the national transfer scheme.

3. Resettlement of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from Greece, Italy and France
In May, the Government responded to the “Dubs Amendment” to the Immigration Bill by announcing a scheme to resettle unaccompanied asylumseeking children from Greece, Italy and France. This scheme refers only to children who had arrived and been registered in Europe before 20 March 2016.

The Government is working on the details though we understand that, at least in part, the scheme will aim to reunite children with extended family already in the UK. In its announcement about the scheme, the Government expected the first arrivals “before the end of the year”.

Councillor John Hart
Leader of the Council

Exeter City of Sanctuary | October update

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The Exeter City of Sanctuary Campaigns Group has been focusing on the issue of the resettlement of unaccompanied children. They have written letters to members of Devon County Council [DCC] encouraging them to commit to taking a fair share of the children who have entered the UK.

The good news is that on 7th October DCC issued a Press Release stating their aim to look after at least 25 unaccompanied asylum seeking children by the end of March 2017 as part of a national scheme.

The Council have also pledged to accommodate at least 74 refugee families under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement programme [SVPR].  You can read the full statement at https://www.devonnewscentre.info/devons-doing-its-bit-in-government-resettlement-programmes/

One of the limiting factors in unaccompanied children coming to Exeter is the shortage of trained foster carers. If you or anyone you know is interested in helping with fostering then the contact details are: email foster@devon.gov.uk or fostering enquiry line on 0345 155 1077.

There is still much to do on this and related issues so if you would like to hear an update on the campaigning and be involved in future work do come to the next Campaigns Group meeting on Wednesday 12th October at 7pm at the Mint Methodist Church (Fore Street).

DCC News Centre | Devon’s doing its bit in Government resettlement programmes

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07 October 2016

Devon’s doing its bit in Government resettlement programmes

Devon is doing its bit to help resettle Syrian families and unaccompanied children seeking asylum, according to a report to Devon County Councillors this week.

The Council has a coordinating role in a partnership of local authorities, including Devon’s City and District Councils, Police, the NHS, and voluntary and community sector partners, in responding to the Government’s Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme.

The Government-funded programme aims to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees in the UK by 2020.

Devon’s District Councils, which are responsible for housing, have pledged to accommodate at least 74 families, and the first few families have already arrived and are now resettled.

The partnership is helping families to settle in and lead independent, safe and productive lives.
Families are housed in private rented properties that landlords have offered or agreed to rent to refugee families, so there’s no impact on people awaiting council housing.

Landlords with property available can get in touch via the website.

Under a different scheme, Devon County Council also aims to look after at least 25 unaccompanied asylum seeking children by the end of March 2017 as part of a national scheme.

Most of the young people are male teenagers, aged 15 to 17 years old, and from a range of countries across the Middle East and East Africa.

The Council is working with existing and potential foster carers, as well as specialist organisations that have relevant experience and capacity to help.

It’s asking anyone who thinks that they can offer an unaccompanied child a home to contact the Council’s Fostering enquiry line on 0345 155 1077, or emailfoster@devon.gov.uk

The Council also wants to increase the number of host families in its Devon Young People’s Accommodation Service (DYPAS), which provides safe environments for vulnerable young people aged 16 plus, helping them to develop independent living skills as they move into adulthood.

And it’s strengthening the knowledge and skills of its own staff in specific areas of expertise relevant to unaccompanied children, such as age assessment and understanding of asylum processes.

councillor-john-hartThe Leader of Devon County Council, Cllr John Hart, said:

“Devon is doing its bit to support Syrian families and young unaccompanied people seeking asylum. Working alongside our partners, we are able and keen to help give people new starts and new opportunities for better lives, free of fear or persecution. It is important that we do our very best to provide the support so very much needed at this time.”

 

Councillor Alan Connett, Leader of the Council’s Liberal Democrat Group, said:

“It hard to imagine the horrors of war on your doorstep and the fear it must strike, let alone the pain of loss and being separated from family.

“I am pleased that Devon is helping and that the county council will support 25 asylum seeking children.”

 

cllr-richard-westlakeCouncillor Richard Westlake, Leader of the Council’s Labour group, said:

“I fully support the County council and District councils working together to coordinate a planned response to the refuge crisis for Syrian refuges and unaccompanied children.  Urgent action need to be taken to safeguard venerable children who have fled from the war in Syria.”

Cllr Frank BiedermanCouncillor Frank Biederman, Leader of the Council’s Independent Group, said:

“I am delighted Councils in Devon has got systems in place to help Syrian families and urge people interested in fostering the Syrian or the children in our own care system to get hold of the council.”

 

 

 

Exeter City of Sanctuary | Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children

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The Exeter City of Sanctuary Campaigns Group is currently focusing on the situation with Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children [UASC] arriving in the UK and are wanting to know Devon County Council’s  plans.

Also we are keen to support Devon County Council and Children’s Services in their resettlement effort.

Could you please take a few minutes to read the sample letter to County Councillors which Clare has written. Then would you personalise the letter and send it to your Councillor.

Below is the letter, which you can edit using your own words.

Dear

As a local resident I feel very strongly that Devon County Council should do its bit to welcome, accommodate and support unaccompanied children fleeing war and persecution. I am writing to you to express my concern about Devon County Council’s slow response to date to the resettlement of these vulnerable children seeking asylum. I urge you to raise this issue at Devon Council meetings and with those responsible for making arrangements for their transfer and care.

Under the Government’s new National Resettlement and Transfer scheme (NTS) for unaccompanied asylum seeking children all councils were asked to urgently participate in the scheme and indicate how many children they could resettle in their area. I am disappointed that DCC has not yet made a public statement as to the numbers of children it could, or plans to, accept, including what provision would be needed to care for these children (e.g. foster placements). Meanwhile some councils, like Kent, are carrying a disproportionate level of responsibility and unable to cope. (Kent has almost 1,000 unaccompanied asylum seeking children accommodated, mostly in foster care.)

Children as young as six I believe are arriving without their parents at British ports to claim asylum, often after long and dangerous journeys by land and sea. Some have sadly died in their desperate efforts. Numbers arriving in the UK are increasing. It is vital I think that every city and council in the country does whatever it can to provide sanctuary and care for these children. The imminent closure of the camp at Calais adds a new level of urgency to the need for concrete plans and action from councils. As I’m sure you are aware the UK Government has also committed to bring over unaccompanied children from within Europe. This is set out in the Immigration Act 2016 (commonly known as ‘the Dubs amendment’).

I am a supporter of Exeter City of Sanctuary, a group whose existence is testament to the good will towards asylum seekers and refugees that there is in Exeter across all sections of the community. There is a strong desire to actively assist Devon County Council and Childrens Services in their efforts to meet the provision needed to safely care and support these children. (I’m aware that there are other similar community support groups outside of Exeter who would wish to assist too).

I feel strongly about this issue and it would be wonderful if you could support Exeter City of Sanctuary in their work, and join us in making sure Devon County Council does as much as it possibly can to help with this crisis.

Yours Sincerely

And here’s a *.pdf version if you only have time to send the original letter.

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Sample letter to your County Councillor

You can find all the relevant contact details for your County Councillors at:

https://new.devon.gov.uk/democracy/councillor/

There is a Council meeting on Thursday 06 October 2016, so prompt action would  be welcome but the issue is ongoing so anything you can do to alert your Councillor will be welcome.

Cllr | Local Government and the refugee crisis – frontline and last resort

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Local Government and the refugee crisis – frontline and last resort

Is the burden of settling refugees falling disproportionately on some councils? Patrick Kelly investigates why some authorities have still not signed up to the scheme to resettle people fleeing Syria.

Rose Bazzie is a nurse in a Sheffield hospital, runs a women’s choir in the city and is a mother of 3 children.

But 12 years ago, she was a refugee from war-torn Liberia. She arrived in Sheffield as one of the first people to be resettled through the Government-sponsored Gateway Protection Programme.

“I remember the day we arrived – I was shocked at how cold it was.” She says. ”I was only wearing slippers and a dress! I knew nothing, nothing at all about the UK. The Refugee Council showed us cookers and washers, and we had to get used to all this electrical stuff.”

In the year ending June 2016, 36,465 asylum applications were accepted in the UK. Rose’s story reminds us that behind that number lies an individual who has not only fled war and persecution, but having reached safety here, has to learn to adapt to their new home, to find shelter, education, work and support. Providing all those things is the task of Britain’s local authorities.

That job has not been made easier by the Syrian civil war, which has sparked the greatest global refugee crisis since the Second World War. Last year, David Cameron promised that the UK would respond by taking in 20,000 Syrian refugees from camps in the Middle East by 2020.

Sheffield, the UK’s first City of Sanctuary, has agreed to help 75 of those refugees each year for the next 3 years. That’s in addition to the 1,162 refugees that it has aided since 2004 through the Gateway Programme. This involves co-ordinating the efforts of public agencies – including the police, health authorities and housing associations – as well as many volunteer agencies, from the national Refugee Council to local church groups. Together, they ensure that the refugee resettlement of people like Rosie is carried out as smoothly as possible.

It’s no easy task, but Cllr Jayne Dunn, Cabinet Member for Housing at Sheffield City Council, is proud of her city’s record in resettling. “Sheffield is a welcoming and inclusive city. It’s important that we do our bit to respond to the refugee crisis, and help people fleeing war and persecution.”

But not every local authority is so keen on signing up to the Syrian scheme, which is voluntary and gives councils £8,500 for each refugee in the first year they arrive, falling to £1,000 in the fifth year. Councils also receive an additional £4,500 for each child aged 5 to 18 years and £2,250 for those aged 3 to 4 years, to cover the cost of education.

Less than two-thirds of councils have signed up, admits Cllr David Simmonds, who leads for the Local Government Association, which co-ordinating the scheme.

Some councils, like Haringey, say the pay-outs will only cover 70 to 80% of their costs. Cllr Claire Kober, Leader of LB of Haringey, said the council would like to rehouse more than 50 refugee families but “the Government’s reticence to put in place the support, not just in terms of housing costs, but in terms of the wrap-around support the vulnerable [people], particularly women and children, require is really causing a stick.”

But costs aren’t the only issue. Council housing waiting lists are already vastly over-subscribed, so local authorities look to housing associations or the private rented sector to find refugees somewhere to live.

Cllr Claire Kober said, “We have 3,000 families in this borough in temporary accommodation. Housing in London is in crisis and what we can’t do is look at this in isolation.”

Other councils, like Medway, say that helping refugees will have too much impact on already stretched local services. Leader, Cllr Alan Jarrett, told his local paper “Our priorities have to be with the people in Medway. It is unacceptable that children may have to be moved out, or residents should suffer.”

Local authorities in Cumbria have said that their priority is with victims of floods, while Manchester’s local authorities say that they already house 1 in 4 asylum seekers, and are demanding a change in the Government’s dispersal policy before they will join the Syrian resettlement scheme. In July, MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee criticized those councils, particularly wealthier ones, for opting out.

In September, the National Audit Office expressed concerns that although early targets have been met, more refugees will have to be resettled each quarter from now on if the 20,000 figure is to be reached. It added that 4,930 houses or flats and 10,664 childcare and school places will be needed. “The future of the programme could be put at risk by local authorities’ lack of suitable accommodation and school places.”

But David Simmonds says that it has been a relative success story. So far, more than 2,800 people have been resettled “without a great deal of difficulty” and 20,000 offers, meeting the Government target, “are now on the table.”

He says the biggest challenge for local authorities is the patchwork of other refugee resettlement schemes, many of which were contracted out to private companies purely on the basis of price. The contracts, which account for the vast majority of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK, mean that companies are going for places where housing is cheap and readily available, adding to the already stretched services in areas of disadvantage. “Local authorities have no say in where people go, but they still have obligations in education and social care,” says Simmonds.

In addition, there are pressures created by schemes for unaccompanied refugee children and other EU agreements under freedom of movement regulations.

The LGA estimates more than £100m a year is spent by councils in looking after refugees, money that is not backed by any central Government funding. “Of course, no-one is saying that councils should not be helping, but that help needs to be backed by funding,” adds Simmonds, who points out this would assist in cementing public support for resettling refugees.

He sympathises with authorities which face significant housing shortages, and suggested that areas which are facing depopulation are in a better position to accommodate refugees.

David Hill, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services [ADCS], says that outside of major cities, it does get harder for infrastructure to cope. There are fewer translators, and local schools are unused to dealing with traumatised children from conflict zones but “if we’re going to make this work, everyone has to make it work together,” he says.

Some councils are calling for more drastic action.

Coventry City Council, which has taken in more than 100 Syrian refugees, is writing to MP Theresa May, demanding that the Government enforces a minimum quota on all local authorities.

Coventry’s Deputy Leader, Cllr Abdul Khan, say, “We are very happy to support the programme because we believe these Syrian refugees are facing real danger and have been recognised by the UNCHR. It is part of our common humanity.”

He says that’s it not a question of money or resources. There is little justification for other local authorities not sharing the responsibility. “It’s not a question of having the right infrastructure, it’s a question of providing a place of safety,” he says. “Our argument is basically about fairness.”

Across the political divide, Tory-run Kent County Council also wants a compulsory system, The council, which sees itself in the frontline of the refugee crisis, because of its proximity to France, says it faces “enormous pressures” on services, foster placements, accommodation and finances.

“We believe that any national dispersal scheme should be mandatory,” says Cabinet Member for Childrens’ Services, Cllr Peter Oakford. “We urgently need to share the numbers fairly across all local authorities.”

Finally, the NAO in its report suggests that councils were worried that the Syrian Resettlement Programme is dealing with the most vulnerable group of refugees, and many of them may need substantial support beyond the 5 years of the programme. “Support for these needs is not covered by existing programme funding,” says the NAO.

Patrick Kelly is a freelance journalist

Resettlement programme provides blueprint for all refugee integration

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Resettlement programme provides blueprint for all refugee integration

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One year on from the Government’s announcement that 20,000 Syrian refugees would be resettled here, the Refugee Council is calling on the Government to ensure that all refugees in the UK receive specialist assistance to integrate into British life.

Exactly a year ago, following a campaign led by the Refugee Council, the former Prime Minister David Cameron announced Britain would resettle 20,000 refugees from Syria by 2020.

According to the latest statistics, 2,898 Syrian refugees have been resettled in the UK so far and the Home Secretary recently confirmed it has secured all 20,000 places to enable the Government to meet its target.

Refugees being resettled from countries surrounding Syria receive a tailored package of support to help them access housing, employment, education and other services so they are able to begin rebuilding their lives.

However, as the Refugee Council revealed earlier this year, these Syrian refugees’ experience stands in stark contrast to the treatment of other refugees in Britain who have been granted asylum rather than being resettled here.

The Refugee Council believes that refugees who are granted asylum should also be able to access tailored integration support.

Refugee Council Chief Executive Maurice Wren said:

Refugee Council Chief Executive Maurice Wren said: “The Syrian refugee resettlement programme is a compelling example of Britain at its best. Communities up and down the country have opened their doors and hearts to families in desperate need of shelter, and each refugee that Britain has resettled has had their life transformed, if not saved.

“The Government now must learn the lessons from the success of this programme. We need a national refugee integration strategy that ensures all refugees in Britain – not just those who are resettled here – get the specialist support they need to begin rebuilding their lives and contributing to our shared futures.”