Home Office ‘denied rights’ of lone child refugees
'Many' unaccompanied child refugees have gone missing after being rejected from the UK, court hears
Refugee children - Steve Evans
The UK Government acted unlawfully when lone child refugees who were based in Calais and rejected from Britain were denied a reason for being rejected, the Court of Appeal has ruled.
Over 500 unaccompanied children were refused entry to the UK and many subsequently went missing as a result of the “unfair and unlawful” decision, judges said.
The UK Government department failed to reveal to the High Court that children were refused reasons because of a “perceived risk” they would bring legal action.
Labour's Yvette Cooper, chair of Westminster's Home Affairs Select Committee, described it as a "shocking denial of children's rights".
Lord Justice Singh said the failure to mention this during the High Court hearing was “a serious breach of the duty of candour and co-operation” and resulted the absence of key evidence.
One thousand unaccompanied children were interviewed by the Home Office In the days leading up to and following the demolition of the Calais camps in October 2016 following pressure to take in child refugees from Labour peer Lord Alf Dubs.
In 2017 the High Court ruled the UK Government had acted lawfully when it did not provide full reasons for the rejections, but that decision has now been overturned following an appeal by Safe Passage, a project of the Citizens UK campaign.
Speaking on behalf of Safe Passage, Beth Gardiner-Smith, project lead, said: “Tragically, many of the children that were refused by the government with no good reason have since gone missing from French authorities’ care, and we have little to no information on their whereabouts or wellbeing.
“Today’s judgment reveals not only the failure of the Home Office to comply with law but also its abysmal disregard for the safety and welfare of incredibly vulnerable children.
“By refusing these applications without providing reasons, the Home Office left potentially hundreds of unaccompanied children in Calais with no viable legal avenues to join their families.
“The Home Office knew the risk that these children might lose faith in the legal process and attempt to find their own way to their families. But it withheld the information anyway.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The UK worked with France to expedite the transfer of 769 vulnerable unaccompanied children from Calais in October 2016.
“This was in response to an urgent humanitarian situation where our priority was to provide safe passage for children.
“The court agreed that the process operated by the Government was outside of its existing obligations under EU law.
“However, we note the criticisms contained within the wider ruling and are currently reviewing these with our legal team.”
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