13 June 2016 - On Monday, several MPs are using Home Office questions to demand an answer to why no real progress has been made on speeding up family reunion to the UK since the Government announced a commitment to make this happen. 

This follows a big Unicef UK campaign, supported by more than 100,000 signatories, to help reunite unaccompanied refugee children with their families in the UK. Monday is the moment the Government can live up to its promises on family reunion in Europe. To motivate her to act now, an open letter to the Home Secretary has been written and signed by some of the boys who have now been successfully reunited, and are living safely in the UK. 

The children in Calais have a bed waiting for them in the UK, and have a legal right to be reunited with their families here. Instead they are waiting months in squalid camps for the slow legal machinery to get moving, which puts them at a huge and unnecessary risk of sexual exploitation and trafficking. 

Monday is the moment the Home Office minister can fix this. By committing to just a further ten more officials to work on these cases we believe the children could be in school in time for September. The Government should also develop a plan to do the same across Europe. 

Below is the open letter from some of the boys who have successfully been reunited thanks to the work of Citizens UK working in Calais:

Dear Home Secretary, 

We are the children you see on the dangerous boats to Europe, torn from our families by war. 

We’re the children you see living through hell in ‘The Jungle’ in Calais. We will never forget those horrific months.  

Now, we’re the lucky few. After months of worrying and waiting, we have finally been reunited with our families in the UK. But our friends are still suffering in Calais, facing more and more danger every day, even though they have a right to be here with their families. 

Only you can take our friends out of danger. If you had 10 more staff working to reunite children with their families, all of the 157 children who are alone in Calais right now - and, like us, have family living in the UK - could be here in time to start school in September.

In the past three weeks, more than 100,000 people have joined Unicef UK and Citizens UK in calling on you to reunite children with their families in the UK as quickly as possible. Among them are children, parents, MPs, and high profile people including Michael Sheen, Andy Murray and Sir Chris Hoy. It means so much to know that all of these people in the UK are speaking up for child refugees like us. Please listen to them.

Some people have a negative view of refugees, but we just want a second chance of living a happy life with our families and away from war. We are glad and thankful to you that we are now safe with our families in the UK. Please help the other children in Calais – along with those in Italy, Greece and elsewhere – by letting them be with their families. 

Yours sincerely,

Bilal, 16

Hasan, 16

Ahmed, 16

Moussa, 17

Mohamed, 17

Sami, 17

Sayid, 17

(Names have been changed to protect the children’s identities)

- ENDS - 

Notes to editors:

Spokespeople are available for interview.

A list of the questions put to the Home Secretary can be found here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmfutoral/futoral.htm

Next week, Unicef UK will be launching two new reports on the refugee children in Europe. 

Tuesday 14th June  sees the publication of a Unicef Child Alert on the routes being taken by children into and through Europe. This discusses the dangers faced by unaccompanied refugee children, including those travelling from Libya to Italy. 

On Thursday 16th June, Unicef UK and Unicef France will publish a joint report on the conditions in the camps in Northern France. This will include new details on the abuse and sexual exploitation faced by unaccompanied refugee children living in these camps. The research emphasises the need for the Government swiftly to act to protect these vulnerable children and reunite them with family in the UK.

About Unicef: Unicef is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. Unicef UK raises funds to protect children in danger, transform their lives and build a safer world for tomorrow’s children. As a registered charity we raise funds through donations from individuals, organisations and companies and we lobby and campaign to keep children safe. Unicef UK also runs programmes in schools, hospitals and with local authorities in the UK. For more information please visit unicef.org.uk

For more information, please contact:

Unicef UK Press Office, 0207 375 6030, media@unicef.org.uk