LONDON, Children in refugee camps in conflict zones will be given sanctuary in Britain, the government announced Thursday.
The British Home Office said it will work with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to identify “exceptional cases” of unaccompanied children in Syria and neighboring conflict zones. The plan does not apply to asylum seekers already in Europe, and comes after humanitarian organizations highlighted the plight of children traveling without parents or other supervision and subject to potential harm by human traffickers.
Britain previously announced it would accept 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020, and Thursday said it would dedicate $14.29 million to help refugee minors already in Europe.
While Britain’s opposition Labor Party hailed the plan as a “welcome step forward,” Immigration Minister James Brokenshire stressed that most children in refugee camps were better served staying there, to be reunited with families. To that end, the government said it would offer extra resources to the European Asylum Support Office, a Malta-based agency of the European Union.
“The vast majority are better off staying in the region so they can be reunited with surviving family members. So we have asked the UNHCR to identify the exceptional cases where a child’s best interests are served by resettlement to the UK and help us to bring them here,” Brokenshire said.
British officials said the plan would only apply to unaccompanied children living in conflict zones, not those who have already traveled to European countries. They said they hope to prevent children from making the dangerous crossing over water to Europe.
About 1,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in Britain through a government resettlement program.
By Ed Adamczyk