Calais

The situation in Calais was a dreadful one. These were real people fleeing war and economic devastation, who were living in appalling conditions. In the absence of any effective government action, they were at the mercy of people smugglers and criminal gangs.

I believe we in Britain are a caring and compassionate country and that those values are demonstrated by how we respond to crises such as these. Much more, could and should be done by the government to ensure the safety and security of these children. We welcome the fact that work is being done in Greece and Italy because Calais is not the only refugee camp.

While the government accelerated the processing of child refugees, it had known for months that the camp in Calais was due to close, and more should have been done to ensure that the camp was not be demolished until all the children had been processed.

We in the Labour Party were concerned with the delayed response by the government. Our concern was that by delaying our response, we opened up the risk of trafficking; and of those left in the camp disappearing. We know that the last time there was an eviction, more than 100 children went missing because that eviction began before their safety was guaranteed. If children go missing this time, the fear must be that they will disappear into the hands of people smugglers and sex traffickers.

My colleagues and I were determined to press the government to take steps ensure that it was not complicit in a breach of human rights legislation through the process of dispersal. This included the right to a family life, freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment, that their legal rights were respected and that they were not subjected to arbitrary detention or exile.

The Labour Party asked for detailed plans from the Government on how they intended to protect children before, during and after the demolition of the encampment. There were also questions about what steps the Government was taking to ensure that, once dispersed, the refugees were resettled in humane and sanitary conditions? How many of the children at the camp who are legally entitled to reside in the UK had been properly identified and their families notified?

We will continue to press the Government on the steps they are taking to ensure that no child or young adult will be prey to people smugglers and sex traffickers. We will also continue to push to make sure the Government puts into place enough support to keep those children safe and in particular that there are additional arrangements for the girls and young women.