SWWB supports Afghan Child’s challenge to the Government over failure to adhere to DUBS amendment
(ZS and High Court Challenge)
The Calais refugee camp ‘The Jungle’ was brutally dismantled by French riot police on the orders of the then President Hollande in October 2016, leaving hundreds of unaccompanied children stranded. Together with the French Legal Shelter, Social Workers without Borders had already provided voluntary assessments of the serious risk of harm faced by at least a dozen such children since April 2016 helping some of them reach safety in the UK.
During the destruction of the camp we worked frantically to pull together a team of social workers who would go over to the camp and conduct Best Interest Assessments with the solicitors, Duncan Lewis. We were supported in this callout by many SWAN members – spreading the word about what we were doing through an activist network of social workers, students and academics.
The children’s experiences during their journey and their subsequent stay in the Jungle had traumatized them. They all needed significant professional support to protect them from further serious harm. This included a 14 year old boy, ZS. Some of them feature in Sue Clayton’s powerful film Calais Children: A Case to Answer.
After fierce lobbying led by Lord Dubs, the Government agreed to include an amendment to the Immigration Act 2016 (section 67) to relocate some vulnerable lone-child refugees from Europe who had no close family connection in the UK. The Government subsequently restricted the number of children given safe passage under the ‘Dubs amendment’ to an arbitrary 320 and imposed cut off date of October 2017. This was successfully challenged in the Courts with the result that the number of children allowed to enter the UK under Dubs has been slightly increased. SWWB condemned these restrictions and highlighted our concerns that refugee children were consequently being exposed to an increased risk of trafficking and sexual exploitation due to the negligence of the UK and French Authorities.
Since the distribution of children across France, some of whom were placed in empty holiday camps and hospital wings, completely unsuited to meeting the needs of vulnerable children, SWWB continued to review the children we met and our social work Assessments showed that many children, ZS included, were displaying symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. We subsequently launched a successful Crowd Justice campaign to give us some much needed funding to continue our follow up Assessments.
Now, ZS, supported by Duncan Lewis, is challenging the decision to end the Dubs amendment on the basis that the Home Secretary failed in her duties required under the Dubs amendment. ZS currently remains in France.
As Social Work volunteers we worked around the clock, and in distressing conditions, in order to challenge social injustice. In doing this we took a massive step into the unknown, practising outside of our Local Authorities and familiar domestic legislation.
Redefining social work outside of our local authority practice has centred on transcending borders imposed by neo-liberalist ideologies, managerialism and marketisation. In developing an awareness of its parameters and influences and then fostering thinking and action which is directed by social workers themselves, firmly aligned to the principles of social justice, we seek to reclaim social work on our own terms. We can use this experience to transform our social work practice from inside and outside the State.
In celebrating World Social Work day on 20th March, let’s applaud the Social Work Volunteers who chose to shine a light in the darkest of places and support those oppressed by political ideologies and inaction.