CHILDREN must have the #RightToReunite with their families. To take this away is barbaric. Children across Europe are suffering, stranded in unsanitary, unsafe conditions, alone and in survival mode.

In December the government presented a new EU Withdrawal Bill which watered down its legal obligations to find a replacement for family reunion. The government’s move shocked Lord Dubs, who encouraged the House of Lords to vote on Tuesday to restore legislation. On Wednesday, the government brutally voted once again to scrap legal protections for children in need of protection.

READ MORE: Brexit: Tories reject protections for lone child refugees

Prior to working at Scottish Refugee Council, I spent 15 months in Calais, and news like this always brings things sharply back. On one occasion, a teenager standing at the side of the road having been evicted from shelter by the police begged me to tell him why he couldn’t be reunited with his family in England, just 20 miles away across a strip of water. Another kid, 12 years old, stranded in the remnants of the Calais jungle for a cruel winter, developed a horrendous chest infection. The authorities look on, unblinking. And there’s plenty worse than this.

Lives are at stake if children cannot reunite with their families. Family reunion is about the future, about compassion, about a generation of young people not being lost. There are reports of children as young as two losing hope in the squalid camps of Greece, shutting down, already so deeply traumatised by the cards that life has dealt them. We can do better than this. We can do so much better than this.

On Tuesday, a boat sank in the English Channel off the coast of Belgium. Eight people are still unaccounted for, including children. They are believed to be alive but reports are not reassuring. We urgently need more safe and legal routes to prevent needless tragedies at our border, which claimed nearly 50 lives in 2019 including the Essex tragedy. But instead, the government is looking at tearing our extremely limited safe, legal routes apart. To take away the #RightToReunite is nothing short of state-sanctioned child abuse.

We are grateful to Lord Alf Dubs and Safe Passage for their tireless work on this campaign. Despite Wednesday’s House of Commons vote, the fight will continue to ensure that our humanitarian traditions are upheld and that common sense and hope prevails.

Chris Afuakwah
Media Officer, Scottish Refugee Council and trustee, Refugee Info Bus

TWO very familiar subjects were heard in the House of Commons this week: Universal Credit and the change to women’s state pension age, which have plunged many into poverty and ill health. So what can we expect from the new decade and the new government on those matters? The introduction of Universal Credit has been a disaster since its launch and has brought nothing but misery to claimants, who need to wait six weeks for first payments. The system is broken, it needs fixed and a massive overhaul is required urgently, but is the government listening, has it any real concern for those dependant on Universal Credit? If its MPs have they are hiding it well.

On the issue of women and state pension age, SNP MP Patricia Gibson during questions to the Minister for Women and Equalities quoted the Prime Minister. Only last year he said “let’s see what we can do for those women born in the 1950s”. Mr Johnson, women born in the 1950s are waiting, many waiting in poverty, so urgency would be appreciated. As a result of the General Election which returned a large Conservative majority (not in Scotland) I do not hold out much hope.

Catriona C Clark