Island could be ‘ideally placed’ to help child refugees

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Last week the JEP revealed that ministers were ‘examining’ the possibility of bringing unaccompanied child refugees into Jersey and it is believed that civil servants are liaising with UK officials over the matter.

In an online JEP poll, 41% of 1,600 respondents thought that Jersey should accept child refugees, while 59% were against the idea.

In a similar poll in 2015, 82% of readers opposed a suggestion by then-Chief Minister Ian Gorst to bring Syrian refugee families to Jersey.

St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft has lodged proposals calling for the States to make accepting unaccompanied child refugees one of its strategic priorities.

His actions come following a meeting with Labour peer Lord Alf Dubs, a former child refugee who called for Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man to help the UK in taking child refugees from Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

A large number of Islanders have voiced concerns that such a move could pave the way for many more refugees to come to Jersey, while others have called for the Island to be compassionate.

Deputy Louise Doublet, a vocal supporter of children’s rights, said that she supported Mr Crowcroft’s amendment and that she believed the Island was capable of looking after its own children, as well as some from troubled parts of the world.

‘I understand that it is human nature to be wary of unfamiliar things but our common humanity must prevail,’ she said.

‘There will be a measured way of implementing this without “opening the floodgates”, as some are concerned about.

‘I agree that we must ensure Jersey children have their needs met but I am of the opinion that we can do both.’

She added that the improvements being made to Jersey’s child support agencies following the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry could make the Island very suitable for supporting children from traumatic backgrounds.

‘As our services improve and we focus on putting children first we may be ideally placed to assist refugee children,’ she said.

‘I have noted some families offering to welcome a refugee child into their home – if this is the case, then the government should be facilitating this while maintaining the efforts to recruit foster carers for local children.’

Deputy Rob Ward, a member of the Reform Jersey party and a former teacher, also came out in support of Mr Crowcroft’s amendment.

He urged Islanders to remember that refugees were people and not to forget their ‘moral responsibilities’.

‘The proposition is about us discussing with the UK what we can do regarding unaccompanied child refugees,’ he said.

‘We cannot turn our backs on the plight of children who face horrendous threats to their lives. Our discussions on this topic should not forget the moral responsibilities we have and must be based in reality, not unfounded fears that often arise around this topic.

‘Perhaps we should just refer to refugees as “people”. And remember that.’

Senator Gorst withdrew his plans in 2015 to bring a handful of refugee families to Jersey, on the grounds that it could allow many more UK-based refugees to come to the Island under the European Convention on Human Rights.

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