I was deeply saddened by the loss of life in the Channel as a boat carrying migrants sank in French waters near Dunkirk. My thoughts at this terrible time are with the loved ones of those who died. This awful incident highlights the danger of crossing the Channel by small boat and the ruthlessness of the criminals who are exploiting vulnerable people.
As you will appreciate, the French authorities are leading the response and the UK Government has offered whatever help and support they need to investigate the incident. The Home Secretary has been clear from the beginning that the criminals exploiting vulnerable people will be stopped and I offer my support to this important work.
The UK continues to be one of the world’s leading refugee resettlement states. As a country, we resettle more refugees than any other in Europe and are in the top five countries worldwide. Since 2015, the Government has resettled more than 25,000 vulnerable refugees in need of protection through our refugee resettlement schemes, with around half being children.
In the year ending March 2020, over 7,400 refugee family reunion visas were issued to partners and children of those previously granted asylum or humanitarian protection in the UK. This is 37 per cent more than in the previous year.
I welcome the fact that the Government provides a safe and legal route to bring families together through its refugee family reunion policy. This allows a partner and children under 18 of those granted protection in the UK to join them here, if they formed part of the family unit before the sponsor fled their country. You may be encouraged to hear that under this policy, over 29,000 family reunion visas have been issued in the last 5 years.
When it is safe to do so the UK should recommence refugee resettlement. I welcome the fact that the Home Office is evaluating how to respond and is continuing to discuss this with international and domestic stakeholders.
I will continue to push Ministers to restart resettlement as soon as it is safe and practicable to do so.
In 2016 Parliament agreed to relocate 480 unaccompanied children from Europe to the UK. In May this year, the Government announced that 478 children from Greece, Italy and France had been transferred to the UK under the scheme. The final two transfers were suspended due to the travel restrictions in place due to the Coronavirus pandemic. You may be pleased to hear that the UK has now completed the final two transfers and therefore completed the commitment