The road to hell, they say, is paved with good intentions.
Today’s paper reports that large numbers of child refugees seem to have exchanged one hell for another, having simply disappeared into sweatshops or prostitution. Placements with relatives have broken down, some are being pursued via social media by the criminal gangs that trafficked them in the first place, some just run away.
We know that some refugees are not children (the test is that they must look under 25), but those who are have been through traumatic experiences which can’t be dealt with by sticking them in the nearest B&B.
The decision to accept these children was a knee-jerk political response to well-intentioned emotional demands which evoked memories of child refugees from Nazi Germany 70 years ago. The situation of the Calais refugees is completely different and infinitely more complex.
Any hope of success was dashed by the failure to assess their needs and to provide adequate resources. We can barely meet the needs of children in our existing care system, let alone hundreds who speak little or no English, may have had little formal education, have lived through the trauma of war, trafficking, life in “The Jungle” and who are still being pursued by professional criminal gangs.
If we are to continue accepting child refugees, we must ensure that that they are children, taking equal numbers of boys and girls, and see that they are adequately housed, protected, educated and supported. Is it going too far to suggest that the resources of some of our top public schools, charitable foundations for the benefit of the poor, might have something to contribute?