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Child Refugees Are Not 'Someone Else’s Problem,' Says UK House of Lords

Flickr: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

The House of Lords has issued a forceful indictment of the UK’s response to the arrival of thousands of child refugees on Europe’s shores. 

In a strongly worded report, entitled Children in crisis: unaccompanied migrant children in the EU, the House of Lords expressed strong concern that “member states — including the UK — may have lost sight of the plight of unaccompanied migrant children.

“In particular, we deplore the continuing reluctance of the UK Government to show solidarity with its European partners in helping to relocate such children."

Almost  90,000 unaccompanied refugee children applied for asylum in Europe in 2015, and 10,000 are currently believed to be missing across the continent. 

"How can member states — including the UK — tolerate a situation where there are more than 10,000 missing migrant children in the EU?" said  Baroness Prashar, chair of the parliamentary committee behind the report. 

Read more: What if British children were plunged into a refugee crisis? 

Assessing the “clear failure” of EU member states to provide adequate protection to these minors, arriving unaccompanied after dangerous and traumatic journeys, the report includes examples of real-life experiences to highlight the plight of child refugees. 

“Unaccompanied children I have met have told me about being beaten in Greece and told to leave the country,” said one witness. 

climate change_refugee.jpgImage: thomas koch / Shutterstock.com

Describing the “deplorable conditions” child refugees are forced to live in, the report details the “inappropriate, squalid facilities,” in which vulnerable minors are detained. Treated with suspicion by authorities, child refugees often fall victim to traffickers and people smugglers in their desperation. The Guardian reports that 50% of the refugee children supported by Save the Children's Italy programme had contracted a sexually-transmitted disease, indicating that they had been sexually exploited on their journey.

This searing report comes just weeks after Theresa May’s decision  to scrap the position of Syrian refugee minister from her Cabinet. The responsibilities previously held by this post have now been transferred to the Minister of State for Immigration. 

Read more:The UK agrees to accept vulnerable child refugees 

And since the UK agreed to accept more vulnerable child refugees in May this year, no child refugees have arrived in the UK,  and the number the country will accept has not been confirmed. The Lords’ report therefore urges the government to step up to its responsibilities along with EU member states, asserting that these vulnerable children are not simply "someone else's problem."

While the refugee crisis may no longer be headline news every day, the UK still has a part to play in providing sanctuary for these people who have risked everything in search of a better life. Broadcast earlier this month, the BBC’s harrowing documentary " Exodus " highlights the real lives behind the record-shattering statistics, capturing the dangerous and traumatic journeys more than 1 million refugees have made to Europe in intimate and breathtaking detail.

In light of the Brexit vote and the ongoing reality of the refugee crisis, the report calls for “solidarity” between all European countries, emphasising that the UK’s EU referendum vote does not remove its responsibility to work with other member states.

“It is vital, both on moral grounds and in order to help maintain amicable relations with the other 27 Member States, that the UK Government should play an active and supportive role in addressing the present humanitarian crisis affecting unaccompanied migrant children.”