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Child refugee crisis: Europe needs a plan

The longer European leaders hesitate, the more refugee children will have to suffer
The longer European leaders take to act, the more refugee children will have to suffer

I’m British, but my mother’s side of the family is Russian. They fled to the UK during the violent turbulence of the Russian revolution and never looked back. They found a safe home in Britain and a new future.

I have never needed to justify why I, the grandchild of ‘immigrants’, am here. Nor has my mother, or her mother.

It’s fortunate that they fled so many years ago – as nearly 100 years on, with a refugee crisis on our doorstep, Europe is failing to agree a plan to help.

Refugees welcome

This month the desperate images we have seen across Europe culminated in one devastating photo that sent ricochets across the globe. Baby Alan, washed up on a Turkish beach, alone.

The outpouring of grief and generosity that has followed has been astounding.

We have seen 1.4 million pledges in the UK to say that refugees are welcome. Famous faces have collaborated to raise funds. Ordinary people have driven trucks to Calais with food and essentials for the refugees there. Thousands marched to Parliament Square.

And as the weeks go on, thousands more will continue to offer to open their homes to refugee families or to foster those children who have arrived in Europe alone.

But despite this support, despite the outrage, across Europe we continue to see fences erected, while armed police and soldiers line the borders.

As more refugees land on our shores, it seems that the powers that be are favouring tougher policies, rather than reflecting the collective solidarity we have seen from the public these past few weeks.

Europe without a plan

Just a day into talks in Brussels, EU ministers have failed once again to agree on concrete measures to alleviate the suffering of those who need it most.

While they grapple with policy, thousands of men, women and children are being packed into substandard and in some cases inhumane reception facilities in Greece and along the Balkans route.

Whilst they argue about fair share quotas, thousands of children continue this perilous journey alone, only to arrive to a Europe with no plan. A Europe that cannot agree how to protect them.

That is why we’re calling for leaders to move from proposals to action. Save the Children’s new five point plan sets out what European Ministers must do to stem the escalating humanitarian crisis and to stop further tragedies on our doorstep.

We’re calling on European leaders to agree to work together to:

  • Maintain search and rescue operations with a mandate and capability equal to the task of saving lives in the Mediterranean
  • Provide safe and legal routes into Europe to tackle trafficking and people smuggling
  • Provide reception facilities that can separate out economic migrants from refugees and give a place of safety and support for children
  • Provide relocation and resettlement programmes, with special priority for children, which are equal to the task of the worst refugee crisis since World War Two
  • Have regional plans – including sufficient aid – for the countries refugees are fleeing from, which tackle the root causes of the refugee crisis

The longer European leaders take to act, the longer we will see children paying the price.

No more body bags. No more children dying on our doorstep. The EU must act now.

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