Britain Must Take In 3,000 Refugee Children Who Came To Europe Alone, MPs Demand

    Pressure is growing on David Cameron.

    Anna Pantelia / Save the Children

    A young boy looks out to sea from the Greek island of Lesbos.

    Britain must take in 3,000 refugee children living alone in Europe to stop them falling prey to people traffickers, a cross-party group of MPs has said.

    The international development committee, which includes six Tory MPs, urged David Cameron to accept the youngsters as "a matter of utmost urgency".

    In a hard-hitting report released on Tuesday, the group warned that unaccompanied refugee children were at high risk of being forced into prostitution or child labour.

    The prime minister has pledged to take 20,000 refugees from camps on the borders of Syria over the next five years, and more than 1,000 have already been resettled in the UK.

    But the committee said that on top of this, Cameron must take 3,000 refugee children living in Europe without their parents. The Save the Children charity has led calls for the change, and its campaign has been backed by the Liberal Democrats.

    Save the Children estimates that at least 26,000 unaccompanied children entered Europe last year.

    Committee chair Stephen Twigg, a Labour MP, said: "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 labour and the drugs trade. This is an issue of utmost urgency."

    Simon Edmunds / Save the Children

    Two children play on the railway lines in Presevo, Serbia.

    Save The Children's chief executive Justin Forsyth said lone children were "extremely vulnerable along the refugee route", adding: "Children report having been beaten, extorted and sexually abused on their journey."

    Unaccompanied children in Europe have fled war, persecution and extreme poverty in Afghanistan, Syria, Eritrea, Somalia and Iraq, according to the charity.

    Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said: "It is time for Britain to do the right thing. The government must now act to save these vulnerable children by offering them safety and sanctuary in the UK. David Cameron must start turning warm words into positive action."

    On Monday a group of 27 charities condemned Cameron's response to the crisis as "inadequate" and said he needed to take far more than 20,000 refugees over five years.

    Cameron told MPs in December he would look at the proposal to accept another 3,000 refugee children. But sources close to the PM said he wanted to make sure any plans did not inadvertently put children at further risk.

    A government spokesperson said: "Our programme in Syria has already resettled vulnerable children as part of family groups, with over 1,000 refugees resettled by Christmas. Additionally, the UK government's £1.1 billion commitment is helping hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable people in Syria and the region to rebuild their lives."

    Emily Ashton is a senior political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

    Contact Emily Ashton at

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