LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain should take in 3,000 refugee children who are traveling through Europe alone and are at risk of falling prey to human traffickers, a parliamentary committee said on Tuesday.
Resettling unaccompanied children should be on top of the current commitment to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees, said the International Development Committee, which monitors the performance of Britain’s development aid ministry (DFID).
“Children are clearly some of the most vulnerable refugees this crisis has created,” Stephen Twigg, chair of the committee, said in a statement.
“Having survived the treacherous journey, there is a grave possibility that unaccompanied children become the victims of people traffickers who force them into prostitution, child labor and the drugs trade. This is an issue of utmost urgency.”
More than 1 million refugees and migrants, half of them Syrians fleeing the war, came to the European Union this year, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
In September, British Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to take in up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years, responding to public clamor for his government to help those fleeing civil war in the country.
“...We are looking again at the issue of bringing Syrian children to the UK, both from the region and from within the EU,” a government spokesperson said in a statement.
“In any consideration we must ensure that our proposals are in the best interests of those children affected and do not inadvertently put children at additional risk.”
The committee said the government should come to a “quick decision” on the proposal initially made by charity Save the Children, which launched an online petition in September.
The committee also called on the British government to ensure that refugees from vulnerable groups such as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), Christians and the disabled have access to the resettlement process.
It said the government should look into how to better use offers of support for Syrian refugees from local communities within Britain, among other recommendations.
Since 2011, millions of Syrians have been displaced by civil war, with more than 4 million ending up in refugee camps in surrounding countries like Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.
Reporting by Magdalena Mis; Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org