Thank you for contacting me about the relocation of unaccompanied children from Europe.
Britain has a proud record of helping the most vulnerable children who are fleeing conflict and danger, and I know this Government is committed to upholding this fine tradition.
The UK has contributed significantly to hosting, supporting and protecting the most vulnerable children affected by the migration crisis. In the year ending September 2016, the UK had granted asylum or another form of leave to over 8,000 children. In 2016, over 900 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children were transferred to the UK from Europe. This included more than 750 from France as part of the UK's support for the Calais camp clearance. I should also highlight that of the 4,400 or so individuals resettled through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme so far, around half are children. By the end of this Parliament, we will have resettled 20,000 Syrian nationals through our Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme and a further 3,000 of the most vulnerable children and their families from the Middle East and North Africa region under the Vulnerable Children's Resettlement Scheme. According to EU figures, in 2016 the UK resettled the highest number of refugees of any EU country. The UK can be proud of its record of helping refugee children.
In full accordance with section 67 of the Immigration Act, the Government has announced it will transfer the specified number of 350 children, who reasonably meet the intention and spirit behind the provision. This number includes over 200 children already transferred under section 67 from France. It does not however include children transferred to UK where they have close family here.
As required by the legislation, the Government consulted with local authorities on their capacity to care for and support unaccompanied asylum-seeking children before arriving at this number. Local authorities informed the Government that they had capacity for around 400 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children until the end of this financial year. Similarly the Government estimated that at least 50 of the family reunion cases transferred from France as part of the Calais clearance will require a local authority placement in cases where the family reunion does not work out.
I have also been assured that the UK will continue to work closely with our European partners to meet its obligations under the Dublin regulation and accept responsibility for processing asylum claims where the UK is determined to be the responsible member state, ensuring that it is in their best interests to come here.
While the primary responsibility for unaccompanied children in Europe lies with the State in which they are present, an expert has been seconded to Greece in addition to the long-standing secondee in Italy to support efforts to identify children who may qualify for transfer to the UK. A £10 million Refugee Children Fund has been established for Europe to support the needs of vulnerable refugee and migrant children arriving. Since October 2015 the Department for International Development has been supporting child refugees in Greece with assistance such as food, clean water and safe shelter, as well as access to protection and psychosocial care, and in Italy the Department has provided assistance to unaccompanied minors and supported the deployment of child protection experts.
The Government has always been clear that it does not want to incentivise perilous journeys to Europe, particularly by the most vulnerable children. That is why children must have arrived in Europe before 20 March 2016 to be eligible under section 67 of the Immigration Act.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.