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Child refugees will be stranded in violence ridden camps when UK scraps reunification scheme

Displaced Iraqi civilians arrive at a refugee camp near Kirkuk, Iraq on 7 December 2016 [Ali Mukarrem Garip /Anadolu Agency]

A petition to keep reuniting child refugees with their families is circulating after the Home Office said it was preparing to end the current system of family reunification for asylum-seeking children if Britain leaves the EU without a deal.

Under EU law the Dublin III Regulation enables unaccompanied minors to join their relatives in the UK, however the UNHCR has said that if the UK leaves without a deal this regulation will no longer apply to the UK.

Many child refugees live in overcrowded, unhygienic, dangerous camps and scrapping the reunification scheme will keep them stranded there, the petition warns.

Charities have also cautioned that more child refugees could risk the Channel crossing after 31 October, when British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK would leave Europe with or without a deal.

READ: Greece sees first mass arrival of migrant boats in three years

Almost 1,000 people have crossed the 22-mile waterway between France and Britain already this year, more than twice the number from last year.

At the end of August 32 people, including two children, from Iran and Iraq were rescued from a boat as they attempted to cross the Channel.

The Channel is one of the most dangerous crossings in the world due to the strong currents and cold water.

Not only will scrapping the scheme force them onto unseaworthy boats but it will push them into the hands of traffickers and onto lorries as all safe routes will be closed to them, rights groups have warned.

Last week Head of Advocacy at the Refugee Council Andy Hewett said that the lack of safe and legal routes into the UK put refugees in the hands of people smugglers.

READ: UK MP demands emergency plan to tackle Channel migrant crisis

The current reunification scheme has long waiting times which means many children trying to get to the UK have already given up hope.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has said more asylum seekers must be sent back to avoid the numbers of those arriving from swelling.

In July 100 faith leaders called on Johnson to accept at least 1,000 vulnerable and unaccompanied children from conflict zones and Europe.

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