Children seeking asylum are being put in danger by an EU regulation allowing them to be sent from one country to another, the Refugee Council says today.
The charity also claims the policy can deny children a fair hearing of their asylum claim.
Under the rule, if an asylum seeker has passed through or made a claim in an EU country en route to the UK, they can be sent back to that country.
The council says this is irrespective of how they will be treated on return, or whether they have any meaningful links there and that children are sent back to other countries from the UK, even when they have extended family members here.
Gemma Juma, international protection manager at the Refugee Council says that although the system sounds logical, in practice it has caused a lot of distress:
“If you are an unaccompanied child seeking refuge, it is very hard to know what you are meant to do and where you are meant to go.
We have come across children with extended family in the UK who are being flown back to the country where they first entered the EU against their will – but what happens to them when they get there?
“These are children we are talking about. They are often frightened, confused and desperately trying to find their way to safety so that they can rebuild their lives.
Wherever possible, families should be kept together and we should never transfer children unless it is in their best interests,” says Juma.