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PRESS RELEASE: AIRE Centre intervention in challenge to Dubs scheme

27 July 2018

PRESS RELEASE: The AIRE Centre intervenes in challenge to the implementation of the “Dubs” scheme for the protection of vulnerable asylum-seeking children

27 July 2018

189,400 unaccompanied asylum seeking children came to Europe between 2015 and 2017. Thousands still languish in hotspots and unofficial settlements in “deplorable” (Save the Children) and “totally inappropriate” (European Council on Refugees and Exiles) conditions. Over 2,000 of these children are in Greek camps, soon to face another winter in unheated tents. Nearly two years since the “Jungle” was dismantled, over 500 unaccompanied children remain in Calais, sleeping rough alongside unrelatedadults, and frequently subjected to verbal and physical attacks. These children, alone and desperate, are easy targets for traffickers seeking to exploit their vulnerabilities for personal gain. 

In January 2016, Europol confirmed that 10,000 unaccompanied children have gone missing since their arrival in Europe, with many of them feared to have fallen victim to human trafficking. The EU also highlighted in a recent report that trafficking in the context of migration and asylum is an emerging trend.

The “Dubs Amendment” (Section 67 Immigration Act 2016) was passed to bring some of these very vulnerable children to safety in the UK. It was introduced to Parliament by Lord Dubs, who was himself brought to England at age six through the Kindertransport scheme that saved the lives of thousands of children in World War II.

But the Government has so poorly implemented the “Dubs scheme” legislation that Help Refugees has been forced to bring a legal challenge. The law required the Secretary of State to make arrangements to relocate ‘as soon as possible’ after the passing of the Act (which came into force May 2016) a number of refugee children to the UK from other European States, where they were languishing in the absence of proper legal, physical and psychological support. The number was to be determined by the Government ‘in consultation with local authorities.’ Although the House of Commons in the course of debates anticipated this number to be at least 3,000, the flawed consultation process resulted in a figure of 480 children being offered places, and only approximately 220 being brought to the UK. 

On 25 and 26 July, the Court of Appeal of England & Wales (Civil Division) heard Help Refugees’ case. This is an appeal against a 2017 decision of the Divisional Court which held that the Government’s implementation of the Dubs scheme (and the consultation process) met the required standards. The AIRE Centre intervened in the Divisional Court, and was also granted permission to intervene in the Court of Appeal.

The UK has signed up to, and is bound by, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which requires administrative authorities to make the best interests of children a primary consideration in all actions concerning them. Founder and Senior Lawyer at the AIRE Centre, Nuala Mole, explains: “Our interventions highlight the relevance of the UNCRC to the implementation of the Dubs scheme and the conduct of the Government’s consultation.  We believe that the Home Secretary has failed to comply with the requirements of the UNCRC, with very real impacts on incredibly vulnerable children across Europe who might otherwise stand to benefit from the scheme”.

Our intervention in this case is part of the AIRE Centre’s ongoing work with Separated Children in Judicial Proceedings and, in particular, with unaccompanied migrant children. The Centre has intervened on behalf of affected children before the European Court of Human Rights in many cases against Greece and Italy. 

The AIRE Centre is represented in the Court of Appeal by Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, Katie O’Byrne and Jennifer Robinson of Doughty Street Chambers, instructed by Sally Roe and Michael Quayle of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, all of whom are generously giving their services pro bono. 

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