MP CAROLINE ANSELL: We have an obligation to help refugee children

Caroline Ansell, MP for Eastbourne SUS-160604-141512001
Caroline Ansell, MP for Eastbourne SUS-160604-141512001

The government has committed to give 3000 unaccompanied children refuge in this country, coming directly from the war-torn areas of Syria and the region.

These will be some of the most vulnerable children in the world, those without the security of family and who are living in a warzone. We have an obligation to help; to give shelter, safety and security.

The Government is also committing millions of pounds to focus specifically on the needs of children in Europe. This week there was a proposal to bring in 3000 unaccompanied young people from Europe which was rejected by the Commons, and I voted with the Government. Yes it felt counter- intuitive to vote ‘no’ to a proposal which had children in the title but I couldn’t support it as it stood, it was well intentioned but wrong because of the rush and risk it would have inspired.

There will be another opportunity to vote again on this, and next time it needs to rest on reuniting family members and, the principle of ‘best interest’ as championed by Save the Children; a case by case consideration. If it does I can support it, 100%.

It is right for us to focus on how we can best play our part in an extremely difficult situation. Many of those in camps in Europe have risked life and limb already and deserve support.

However, they are not living in a warzone - they are in safe countries. Many of the facilities are awful, but it’s clear; the more we take from Europe, the more will make the journey to Europe across the sea, a journey in which hundreds have died this year alone.

On my visit to Lesbos recently with Save The Children I was struck by the almost biblical scene of men, women and children travelling on foot but carrying mobile phones. All over the camps, people huddled round not fires but charging stations, desperate to keep connected.

One worker described to me how any change in border access or camp places is immediately communicated back and shared over and over inspiring more people to risk their lives. These decisions have cost hundreds of desperate people their lives.

What I will be doing is working closely with ministers in the forthcoming weeks on sponsorship plans which, like family reunification, has the potential to bring more young people safely from Europe. This includes helping those who will come here as a result of having family in the UK.

I write more about this on my website and in my email newsletter this week, which you can receive by emailing me on office@carolineansell.co.uk