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Government’s child refugee announcement: Promising but confusing

Syrian children with other refugees and migrants
Syrian children try to keep warm in the rain with other refugees and migrants who have crossed from Serbia into Roszke, Hungary.

Thursday should have been a good day.

And for the thousands of lone child refugees fleeing war and persecution – we hope it will still turn out to be.

On Wednesday night, the government issued a press release that finally acknowledged the extreme vulnerability of child refugees in conflict zones around the world and – crucially – on our shores in Europe.

The press release detailed a package of measures that would make countless more child refugees safe – and potentially bring thousands more to the UK. It promised more detail in a Ministerial Statement the next day.

We went off to bed excited. We’ve been calling for the government to offer a home to 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees and were excited to see what tomorrow would bring.

That was, until the next day’s front-pages started trickling through. Their headlines were so divergent that while the Guardian hailed a U-turn, the Daily Mail bellowed that no child refugees were coming to the UK.

Confused? We were too.

The next day, almost every major news outlet had a slightly different story.

We had seen what the measures were, and how much promise they contained, but the day quickly became full of conflicting headlines and confused broadcasters.

Then at 11am, the Minister released his statement. Again, we were tentatively excited.

But for reasons we don’t quite understand, the government spent much of the next 12 hours actively undermining its announcement. It was an announcement that contained so much promise, and that we – and other organisations working with refugees – were poised to warmly welcome.

Let us be clear, if the ambition of these measures is fully realised, they have the potential to: reunite thousands of lone child refugees with their families across Europe and the UK; ensure child refugees in Europe get the information and support they need; and resettle lone child refugees, before they risk their lives on flimsy boats.

It is now up to us – and everyone who has campaigned or spoken out about the shocking vulnerability of child refugees – to work together and put pressure on the government to make this happen.

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