Claude Moraes: Brexit should not be at expense of asylum seekers

UK MEP Claude Moraes has criticised UK Home Office plans to “send people back to Europe” after Brexit.
credit: European Parliament Audiovisual

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

28 Jan 2020

Speaking in a parliamentary committee on Monday, Moraes said “Brexit should not be at the expense” of asylum seekers and their children.

His comments came during a committee debate on the report, "Refugee protection and asylum policy", drafted by the EU Affairs Committee of the House of Lords in the UK. The UK is due to leave the EU at the end of this week.

Moraes, a Labour member, said he believed that the UK department would have to share responsibility if it wanted Europe to take back asylum seekers from the UK.


He said, “If Home Secretary Priti Patel wants to send people back to Europe, then the UK will have to think about compassionate responsibility sharing for vulnerable child migrants. In this sense, the UK is not an island.”

The Home Office is preparing to end the current system of family reunification for asylum-seeking children if the UK leaves the EU without a deal at the end of this year.

Moraes warner, however, that a no-deal Brexit in December would mean no new applications after 1 November from asylum-seeking children to be reunited with relatives living in the UK.

He fears that the impact on migrant children stranded alone in countries such as Greece and Italy could be “fatal” as more head for the Channel to try to cross to the UK irregularly.

“If Home Secretary Priti Patel wants to send people back to Europe, then the UK will have to think about compassionate responsibility sharing for vulnerable child migrants. In this sense, the UK is not an island” Claude Moraes MEP

Moraes, speaking at a meeting of the civil liberties committee, said, “Brexit has attracted much attention on the future of trade relations between the UK and the EU, but most debates largely overlooked JHA-related issues, which are hardly mentioned in the Withdrawal Agreement itself.”

“One striking example of this is the fact that already next week, the UK will face restrictions from some EU Members States on the use of the European Arrest Warrant with a third-country.”

“With regards to migration, asylum and border management, the status quo should be protected during the transition period but the level of cooperation after December 2020 still remains to be seen.”

The last time he will speak in Parliament, Moraes said, “Brexit should not be at the expense of children and families who embarked on perilous journey to seek safety and lost each other on the way. It should not prevent a child who is living alone in a hotspot in Greece or sleeping rough on the streets of Paris or London to be reunited with his parents or siblings.”

In a debate with other MEPs and the UK Red Cross, the veteran MEP added, “This is not only morally unacceptable but could also have fatal consequences. Without the possibility of a safe way to reach the UK, these young people will simply vanish to try to cross the Channel at Calais on lorries or boats or fall prey to human traffickers who target vulnerable children.”

Moraes noted that the UK House of Commons had approved the Withdrawal Agreement, adding, “the scenario of a no-deal Brexit has been avoided for now and therefore the UK will remain part of the Dublin System until the end of the transition period.”

He warned, “However, serious concerns remain both during the transition period and after December 2020 when the Dublin regulation will be revoked in the UK.”

During the transition, he told the committee that it is “essential” that “as many family reunification claims as possible” are processed.

He asked, “How is the Commission supporting EU27 Dublin units to speed up the processing of all take-charge requests to the UK as soon as possible and not later than December 2020?”

After December 2020, under section 17 of the Withdrawal Act, he said the UK government is committed to seek to negotiate the retention of the provisions that allow separated children who have applied for asylum in the EU to join family members in other Member States.

He went on, “However, the commitment only covers separated children and not other refugees and people seeking asylum who would currently be able to be reunited through the Dublin System.”

Moraes told the meeting that “significant gaps remain” between the provisions of the Dublin system and those of the UK’s domestic legislation.

“This will ultimately make it harder for asylum seekers present in the EU to access family reunification under the UK’s domestic law than it was under Dublin III.”

He concluded, “It is therefore crucial for the UK and the EU to find an agreement as part of the negotiations of the future relationship that allows any individuals, children and adults, who have claimed asylum either in the UK or in the EU to be reunited with family members, in the same way that are able under the current Dublin regulation.”

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