The leading refugee organisation Help Refugees was granted permission yesterday (Thursday 3 November 2016) by the High Court to judicially review Amber Rudd over the Dubs Amendment (s.67 Immigration Act 2016).
Help Refugees alleges that Amber Rudd has failed to properly interpret or implement her duties towards unaccompanied refugee children under Dubs Amendment.
The Dubs Amendment was passed in May 2016 in response to the global refugee crisis.
S67 Immigration Act 2016 requires the Secretary of State to “make arrangements… as soon as possible… to relocate” unaccompanied refugee children from other European countries to the UK.
But until Help Refugees issued legal proceedings on 18 October not one child had been relocated to the UK under the Dubs Amendment.
Help Refugees points out that before October 2016, the children who the Home Secretary and her Ministers said she was bringing to the United Kingdom under the Dubs Amendment were in fact children to whom the Home Secretary already owed separate duties under European Union law (the Dublin III Regulation) for family reunion purposes rather than new children brought under the Dubs Amendment.
The Help Refugees legal challenge also alleges that the Home Secretary’s failure to implement her Dubs Amendment duties towards unaccompanied children in Calais – despite the Home Secretary’s commitments in Parliament to prioritise those children – contributed to the Calais children being exposed to serious human rights violations.
Before the demolition of the Calais Jungle on 24 October 2016, the Secretary of State was repeatedly warned that unless proper registration and relocation processes were put in place to implement her Dubs Amendment and Dublin III duties, children who would otherwise be relocated under s.67 might go missing. 129 children remain unaccounted for after the previous partial demolition of the Jungle in March 2016.
Despite these warnings, the Home Office’s registration of children in the Jungle for the purposes of relocating them to the UK under s.67 Immigration 2016, only began on 21 October, three days before the eviction and demolition, and after Help Refugees had begun their legal challenge. The first relocations to take place to the UK under s.67 Immigration Act 2016 started on 22 October, two days before demolition.
According to Help Refugees at the time of the eviction on 24 October, many children, including very young children, remained unregistered and non-accommodated.
Children slept by the roadside or re-entered the partially demolished Jungle Camp in which fires were burning. Unaccompanied children are believed to have gone missing during and in the aftermath of the demolition of the Jungle Camp.
Rosa Curling, who represents Help Refugees, from the human rights team at law firm Leigh said: “We welcome the fact that the High Court has recognised the importance and merit of our legal challenge. This challenge is vital for lone refugee children who urgently need protection and are potentially eligible for relocation. The UK government must fulfil its obligations without further delay.”
Josie Naughton, one of the Founders of Help Refugees, said: “We are pleased that Dubs Amendment relocations have at last begun, apparently prompted by our legal challenge. But the Home Secretary’s actions come tragically late for some children at Calais and so much more is needed.’
Help Refugees are not alone in their criticism of the Home Secretary’s inaction in Calais. The Office of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child issued an unusually strongly worded statement on 2 November condemning the failures of the French and British Governments to protect refugee children in Calais:
“The events of the past week have shown clearly that political and other considerations prevailed over the initial promises by both Governments that the situation of unaccompanied children would be their priority. The best interests of the child have been completely disregarded.
“Disagreements between the French and UK Governments over who should take responsibility for the majority of these children have led to major violations of these children’s rights. Hundreds of children have been subjected to inhumane living conditions, left without adequate shelter, food, medical services and psychosocial support, and in some cases exposed to smugglers and traffickers.”