The UK is failing in its responsibility to protect some of the world's most vulnerable people, say Catholic agencies CAFOD and CSAN, following an announcement from the UK Government that it is cancelling plans to bring 3,000 refugee children to the UK as part of the Dubs Amendment scheme.
Bishop Paul McAleenan, who has responsibility for migration within the Catholic Bishops' Conference, said: "The entire international community has a duty to protect refugees, especially unaccompanied children who are often most vulnerable to exploitation or trafficking.
"In addition to its aid and resettlement programmes in the region, I hope that our government will continue working with other European countries to identify and support unaccompanied children on their journey to safety. The Catholic community also has a role to play by praying for all those who have been forced to flee their homes and by supporting action to relieve this crisis."
Neil Thorns, CAFOD's Director of Advocacy, said: "Last year, whilst over 30,000 unaccompanied children arrived by sea in Greece and Italy - the majority fleeing conflict in Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere - only eight of these children were transferred directly to their family in the UK. We urge the Government to ensure there are safe and legal routes to reach protection in the UK for vulnerable refugees. It must also take steps to improve the humanitarian response in Europe including in Greece, where over 60,000 refugees are still living in limbo."
Dr Phil McCarthy, CEO of Caritas Social Action Network, said: "One of our members, Seeking Sanctuary, which works with Secours Catholique in Calais offering food, clothing and basic medical help to refugees, has appealed for people to write to their MPs asking them to make the Home Secretary aware of their concerns.
"Another of our members, the Cardinal Hume Centre, provides accommodation and support for unaccompanied children who are seeking asylum in London. In their experience these children are extremely vulnerable. The UK has a duty to play its full part in providing sanctuary for such children."
On 23 February 2017, MPs from all political parties will debate what the Government must do to reunite children currently in Greece and Italy.
Together, CAFOD and CSAN form Caritas England and Wales.
For more information on CAFOD see: www.cafod.org.uk
Read more about CSAN here: www.csan.org.uk