Calls for the government to resettle 10,000 child refugees over the next ten years have been taken up by Hackney councillors.
Safe Passage’s 80 Years On campaign, led by Kindertransport survivor Lord Alf Dubs, urges local authorities across the country to pledge extra places for those in need.
This year marks the 80th anniversary of the first Kindertransport – German for “children’s transport” – which was the informal name for a series of rescue missions during the second world war that brought thousands of Jewish child refugees to Britain.
The campaign also calls for central government to provide additional, full funding to councils for the resettlement of 10,000 refugees, in order that funds are not diverted from other vulnerable people.
Fifteen-year-old Doha Al-Halaq addressed a packed 31 October full council meeting, calling on the council to pledge their support for unaccompanied child refugees.
Al-Halaq said: “Before I arrived here, I had had no schooling for four years. I would like to ask Hackney Council – will you take more child refugees to make others’ dreams come true?”
Organiser Mike Hamilton added: “As a charity, our focus is on getting child refugees out of inhumane camps in Europe, and reuniting them with their family here in the UK, or getting them through legal routes to the UK.
“These children have been through a lot of trauma, and we can’t take that away. We can only encourage our local authorities and government to provide more funding for mental health.”
In order to reach the target of 10,000 over the next ten years, each local authority would need to pledge annual support for three additional children every year, which Hackney committed to doing at the meeting.
According to Safe Passage, local authorities across the country have pledged 750 places for child refugees so far.
Hackney took in more than 100 mainly Jewish child refugees on the eve of the Second World War.
The UK government has not yet committed to supporting the campaign, though Prime Minister Theresa May will be presented with a petition, which has attracted over 30,000 signatures, in support of the cause on Monday .
Cllr Caroline Selman (Lab, Woodberry Down), cabinet member for community safety, policy and the voluntary sector, said: “I would like to thank Doha for speaking so powerfully, reminding us why this is so important.
“Currently we are supporting more than 100 children and young adults that came to this country as unaccompanied asylum seeker children, and seven familes through the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme. We pledge to continue that support.
“We very much welcome this campaign, calling on government to fund a new scheme to resettle 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees over the next ten years – a number that can be met if every local authority pledges to take three children a year.
“We are committed to supporting those additional three children called for each year over the next ten years, should that scheme be introduced, and providing that support should the scheme be introduced. I look forward to working with the campaign in future and support their calls to central government.”