Exmouth sisters call for lifeline refugee reunification to continue regardless of Brexit outcome

PUBLISHED: 07:00 19 November 2019 | UPDATED: 09:48 19 November 2019

Melisaa Pawson with a box full of signatures outside the Home Office. Picture: Melissa Pawson

Melisaa Pawson with a box full of signatures outside the Home Office. Picture: Melissa Pawson

Archant

Two Exmouth sisters have called for a lifeline scheme which helps reunite refugee children with their UK-based families to be continued beyond Brexit.

Melissa Pawson at a children's activity group in Greece. Picture: Melissa PawsonMelissa Pawson at a children's activity group in Greece. Picture: Melissa Pawson

Melissa and Hannah Pawson, submitted a petition to the Home Office, signed by more than 87,000 people, pleading for the reunification of young refugees with their families to continue.

Under the European Union's Dublin III Regulation - which determines how member nations respond to applications for asylum - the UK government has committed to reuniting refugee children with their families.

The Exmouth sisters became concerned when they heard the scheme may end after Brexit is finalised.

However, the Home Office said the government is bound by the Withdrawal Act to seek an agreement with the EU allowing unaccompanied asylum-seeking children to join family members in the UK.

Melissa Pawson with her signed petition. Picture: Melissa PawsonMelissa Pawson with her signed petition. Picture: Melissa Pawson

Melissa Pawson, who has spent time volunteering in refugee camps in Northern France and Greece, said she is worried refugees will take to hiding in lorry wheel arches in order to re-connect with their loved ones.

She said: "We are worried that this will become even more frequent if the scheme is closed, as it is often the only hope social workers can offer children in order to deter them from considering these journeys.

"It's estimated that there are about 40 young people currently in Northern France who would qualify to be reunited with family here in the UK.

"Volunteering in Calais had made Hannah and I very aware of how dire the conditions are there, and we both felt really strongly that the scheme, which provides a lifeline to some of the most desperate young people across Europe, should not be scrapped.

Hannah Pawson helping out in a kitchen at the refugee camp in Calais. Picture: Hannah PawsonHannah Pawson helping out in a kitchen at the refugee camp in Calais. Picture: Hannah Pawson

"There is no other safe and legal alternative for young people who want to be reunited with family here."

A Home Office spokesman said: "Until the UK leaves the EU, the Government is committed to the timely and efficient operation of the Dublin III Regulation including the provisions for the family reunification of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

"Furthermore, the Government is committed under Section 17 of the Withdrawal Act to seek to negotiate an agreement with the EU to allow unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the EU to join family members in the UK, where in their best interests, and vice versa."

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