CHILDREN refugees in northern France seeking to reunite with loved ones in Britain are “turned away” despite Home Office promises to offer help, a charity said.
At least two families have been told by French officials that they could not apply for family reunification despite EU law allowing it, Safe Passage reported.
The charity, which supports refugee children in Europe, said “government inaction” and “Brexit chaos” led ministers to break their pledge to continue reuniting families in the new year.
The automatic right of refugee children to be reunited with family members in Britain will end when the Brexit transition period ends on December 31.
The government has previously pledged to review family reunification applications submitted before the deadline and to continue next year in cases where families have filed applications before December 31.
However, Safe Passage said it is “clear that the UK government has not taken the appropriate steps” to fulfill this commitment.
Chief Executive Officer Beth Gardiner-Smith said: “It is unacceptable that refugee children in Europe have been turned away due to the Brexit chaos and government inaction.
“Unaccompanied refugee children should not remain stranded in Europe, with no hope of reuniting with their families in the UK. This is an urgent situation, but there is still time for the government to do the right thing and fix it.
Without safe and legal routes, children risk being pressured into attempting dangerous trips to Britain, the charity has warned.
Among the children affected is the younger brother of an Afghan who was granted refugee status in that country after serving as an interpreter for the British army in Afghanistan. In another case, a 12-year-old Congolese girl seeks to join her mother in Britain.
Safe Passage said it knew 20 other unaccompanied children and five families eligible for the program, but they would be turned away unless the government made urgent changes.
The Home Office dismissed the charity’s claims as “completely inaccurate”.
A spokesperson said: “We are committed to continuing to deal with all family reunification cases, under the Dublin Regulation, which entered the system before the end of the transition period.
“All EU member states can continue to make applications to the UK on the basis of family reunification and we will continue to assess and process these applications.”