West Cornwall MP Derek Thomas says that unaccompanied asylum-seeking children will continue to get the support they need once the UK leaves the EU.
As the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill passed its third reading through the House of Commons last week, an amendment was defeated which would have placed the government under an obligation to negotiate with the EU a continuation of the rights of child refugees stranded in Europe to be reunited with their family in the UK after Brexit.
Mr Thomas says that the UK must “continue to be open and welcoming to unaccompanied children with family connections within the UK” and that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill was about ensuring the government has full flexibility to negotiate a long-term post-Brexit relationship with the EU without having to worry about obligations set by parliament.
“The mistake that is being made is to assume that the correct and appropriate rights and measures to protect unaccompanied children are to be found within the Withdrawal Agreement,” he said.
“The agreement is the route by which we leave the EU in a smooth and orderly way not how we carry on beyond 2020 and it is vital that we have good safeguards in place after this year.
“A statutory obligation to negotiate with the EU does not necessarily lead to an agreement as EU co-operation would be required at a time when complex negotiations are ongoing.”
Mr Thomas said the UK has an excellent record of protecting vulnerable children through its asylum system and resettlement schemes.
In 2018, the UK received more than 3,000 asylum claims from unaccompanied children, accounting for 15% of all claims from unaccompanied children in the EU and, in the year ending September 2019, 6,035 family reunion visas were issued to children and partners of those granted humanitarian protection or refugee status in the UK.
“The Government has stressed that, following the UK’s exit from the EU, unaccompanied children seeking international protection in an EU country will continue to be reunited with family members who are in the UK and that there will be a reciprocal arrangement enabling children in the UK to be reunited with family in the EU,” he added.