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Citizenship

UK Pledges to Step Up Efforts to Rehome Child Refugees Stuck in Calais

Britain will pledge to accept more of the unaccompanied child refugees stranded in Calais — as the UK and France sign a legally binding treaty on security and defence at the English Channel. 

Theresa May is meeting with French President Emmanual Macron to discuss stepping up Britain’s contribution to preventing migrants in Calais crossing the Channel. 

The meeting will include discussion on accelerating the asylum process for people who are entitled to claim refuge in the UK “when it is appropriate,” according to May’s spokesperson — including unaccompanied children and those looking to rejoin families in the UK. 

Take action: Protect Children Fleeing Persecution and Conflict

The meeting is expected to include “precise commitments” from the UK in how to speed up the process, according to a pre-summit briefing from France’s Elysee Palace. 

The UK will also pledge an extra £44.5 million to increase security at the border, including fencing, CCTV, and infrared detection technology. 

Macron — who is on his first visit to the UK as president for Thursday’s summit — said France could no longer be a “coastguard” for the UK, without support. 

Read more: Hundreds of Refugee Children Are Still Stranded a Year After Calais 'Jungle' Was Demolished

An estimated 700 migrants and refugees remain in the Calais area, according to the BBC, following the destruction of the “Jungle” camp in 2016. 

That number includes an estimated 200 to 400 unaccompanied refugee children who are still stranded, according to a report released by the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC) in October. 

“The unaccompanied children or Calais have faced horror, both in their home countries and in France, in the ‘Jungle’ camp,” read the report. “Nearly a year later, the horror continues as children remain vulnerable to trafficking, abuse, starvation, and disease.” 

It added: “These children bear silent witness to the failure that was the demolition of the camp. They are the exclamation marks that should litter this report.” 

Read more: Ai Weiwei Says 'the Only Solution to the Refugee Crisis Will Be a Human Solution'

The UK government has faced criticism for its handling of the so-called “Dubs scheme” — which allows asylum-seeking children to be resettled to the UK. 

It initially pledged to rehome 480 unaccompanied children — but only 200 have been housed in the UK under the Dubs scheme, according to figures from November.

Campaigners had originally hoped the UK would agree to bring 3,000 safely into the UK under the scheme. 

The latest financial pledge — which adds to the £100 million the UK government is reported to have spent on security in the Calais area over the past three years — is about “investing in and enhancing the security of the UK border,” according to a governments spokesperson. 

Read more: Why the Fall in Migrants Arriving to Italy by Sea in 2017 Isn't All Good News

“Just as we invest in our borders around the rest of the UK, it is only right that we constantly monitor whether there is more we can be doing at the UK border controls in France and Belgium to ensure they are as secure as possible," they added.

The number of attempts by migrants to illegally enter the UK has fallen as a result of the increased security at the border, from 80,000 to around 30,000, between 2015 and 2017. 

Macron’s visit to the UK follows his visits to refugee camps in Calais earlier this week, during which he vowed not to allow the formation of another “Jungle” camp. 

Macron also criticised the “Dublin rules” under which refugees are required to seek asylum in the first safe country they reach, and called instead for an EU-wide system which is integrated across the bloc. 

Read more: 27 Heartwarming Stories About Refugees From 2017

“Today’s summit will underline that we remain committed to defending our people and upholding our values as liberal democracies in the face of any threat, whether at home or abroad,” said May, speaking ahead of the meeting on Thursday. 

“But our friendship has always gone far beyond defence and security and the scope of today’s discussions represents its broad and unique nature,” she added. 

France described the UK as a “vital” defence partner, and said it hopes that Britain will continue to have a part in European-wide defence cooperation after Brexit 

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