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Home Office criticised for opaque child refugee transfer process

Publié le 21-12-2016

Source : www.theguardian.com

Auteur : Lisa O’Carroll

« Human Rights Watch says ‘non-transparent and arbitrary’ methods of bringing minors to the UK are harming their mental health

Human Rights Watch has condemned the Home Office for its “non-transparent and arbitrary” process for transferring unaccompanied child refugees to the UK.

In a scathing attack, the campaign group said the process was so ill-considered that the government had ended up separating siblings, in breach of the Dubs amendment to immigration laws, which pledged to give some unaccompanied children refuge in Britain.

In the case of two boys from Ethiopia, a 12-year-old was transferred to the UK while his 15-year-old brother was left behind.

In another case, Human Rights Watch said a boy and his half-sister were separated when the girl was reunited with an uncle, but the boy was not because he was not directly related to the adult.

The group based its criticism on interviews with 41 unaccompanied child refugees from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Syria and Afghanistan in reception centres in France.

The interviews took place between 5 and 16 December, the period directly before and after the Home Office announced on 9 December that it had stopped transfers from France.

Human Rights Watch said children were being left in the dark on the process, leading to psychological distress and, in two cases, suicidal thoughts.

It said : “Children said they did not have information about how and when they would learn the outcome in their cases, the selection criteria, what recourse, if any, they have if they are not accepted, and how they could follow up with the UK Home Office.

“Several said they were so upset that they could not sleep or eat, and two said they thought of taking their own lives. A 17-year-old boy who had been detained in his home country, Ethiopia, and in Libya en route to France, said that he was desperate to join his aunt in the UK,” it said. The charity said the boy told them : “‘I am very lonely here … I am going to kill myself [if I cannot go].’”

The group concluded that the transfer process for children lacked transparency and was arbitrary, hurting children’s mental health.

The findings echo those of other charities, including Help Refugees, Safe Passage and Social Workers without Borders, who have said both the French and British governments were breaching children’s rights by not having a care plan for each child, as they would for a homeless British or French child.

Minors being monitored by Social Workers without Borders in a reception centre in Taizé, near the Swiss border, have been refusing to eat because of the lack of information from the Home Office.

Other volunteers working in Bruniquel, in the south of France, said two children who had refused to eat had been taken to hospital. They have since been returned to the reception centre.

In the south-western French town of Biscarrosse, a group of Sudanese children demonstrated this week to show their anger at having their applications rejected without explanation.

About 2,000 children were dispersed across France from the Calais camp at the end of October, all of whom expected that they would be eligible for transfer to the UK under the Dubs amendment or the Dublin regulation.

The Dublin law allows unaccompanied minors who have family in another EU country to have their asylum considered in that country.

The Dubs amendment to the Immigration Act allows the government to consider unaccompanied children who have no family for asylum in the UK.

Human Rights Watch said it had found minors who appeared to qualify under the regulation – including a 16-year-old boy who has an uncle, aunt, and grandparents in the UK – still in France.

It said the Home Office transfer criteria to implement the Dubs amendment were too strict and did not comply with its spirit.

Last month, the Home Office was criticised after it announced new Dubs criteria that would stop many Eritrean, Afghan and Yemeni teenagers aged 13 or 14 from getting sanctuary in the UK.

The new guidelines, issued to charities two weeks after the Calais camp was cleared, in effect barred those teenagers regardless of why they had left their home countries.

The guidance said it would take under-13s of all nationalities, those deemed at high risk of sexual exploitation, and those who “are aged 15 or under and are of Sudanese or Syrian nationality” because people from those countries are already granted asylum in the UK in 75% of cases.

Human Rights Watch said the Dubs criteria did not appear to have been correctly followed in all cases, including the separation of older siblings from younger ones who do qualify.

It called for the Home Office to broaden its selection criteria and reminded it that the Dubs amendment was “intended as a humanitarian measure”.

It also criticised the French government for abandoning normal safeguarding rules for children in the reception centres.

It said that the children were being looked after “outside the regular child protection service” and that the children in the reception centres “have not had access to asylum procedures or the regular child protection system in France”. The Home Office has been contacted for comment. »

Voir en ligne : https://www.theguardian.com/world/2...

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