Socialist Worker

New reports say Britain’s state has ‘failed’ child refugees - and makes others less safe

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2563

British ships patrolling as part of Operation Sophia

British ships patrolling as part of Operation Sophia (Pic: CSDP EEAS/Flickr)


Britain’s government has let down refugee children in Europe, and patrols it supports in the Mediterranean have led to more deaths.

That’s the conclusion of two new parliamentary reports this week.

Former Labour MP Fiona Mactaggart and Baroness Butler-Sloss chaired the all-party parliamentary group on trafficking and modern slavery until last month’s election.

They say the government is doing “as little as legally possible” to help minors who are alone or separated from their families in Europe.

“The UK government has failed these children, while claiming it cares about child welfare,” they said.

The Calais jungle in France was demolished last year. Refugees, including children, have returned and face “intolerable” conditions.

They are regularly teargassed by police, are forced to sleep in the woods and rely on volunteers for food, the report said.

The government closed down the Dubs scheme to bring some unaccompanied young refugees to Britain earlier this year.

It said the scheme helped ruthless traffickers exploit refugees. But the opposite is true, as the report pointed out.

Pulling the rug out from under refugees who thought they had a chance to come to Britain “feeds directly into the hands of the traffickers,” it said.

The European Union’s Operation Sophia to patrol the coast of Libya and turn refugee boats back is also supposedly aimed at stopping traffickers.

Britain is fully behind it, with British navy ships including the HMS Enterprise taking part.

But another report by the House of Lords select EU external affairs subcommittee said it has failed.

Clampdown

Despite the clampdown, more people have travelled by the treacherous Libya to Italy route. Some 181,436 people took the route in 2016, up by almost a fifth from 153,842 in 2015.

And more of them have died, with 4,500 recorded deaths in 2016, up by 42 percent from 3,175 in 2015.

Operation Sophia’s role includes destroying the wooden fishing boats used to smuggle refugees.

The report rightly pointed out that this has led to the use of smaller and more fragile vessels—leading to more deaths at sea.

It called for Operation Sophia to be scrapped.

But its other recommendations involve convoluted and contradictory attempts to achieve the same objectives—and are equally doomed to fail.

The reports expose Britain and the European Union’s ongoing war on refugees and pull away its shoddy fake humanitarian justifications.

But they both miss one crucial point—that the horror can only be stopped by granting safe passage to all.


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