Health leaders unite in pledge to protect child refugees

Press release
04 November 2016

In a letter published today in the Daily Telegraph, health and medical professionals have branded the Government’s response to the refugee crisis ‘shameful,’ coming together to call for a show of compassion as the ‘appalling humanitarian crisis’ unfolds.

Led by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s President, Professor Neena Modi, and signed by healthcare leaders including GPs, health visitors, nurses, psychiatrists and anaesthetists, the letter warns of the horrors these children face, citing fears of trafficking, radicalisation and poor mental and physical health.

The letter reads:

Children are children, wherever in the world they happen to be. They deserve our protection and care. As health and medical professionals, we call on the UK Government to show compassion to the vulnerable children that have been trapped in the no-man’s land of the former Calais jungle.

Upwards of 90,000 unaccompanied children have arrived in Europe in the last 12 months, many fleeing the horrors of war in the Middle East and elsewhere. Europol estimated that at least 10,000 of these have since disappeared, likely victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation. The UK has, to-date, accepted some 274 unaccompanied children, with more planned, but slowly, and with apparent reluctance that has led to outcry. This is shameful.

There is an appalling humanitarian crisis unfolding with the closure of the Calais 'jungle' camp. A particular grave risk is that young, unaccompanied and traumatised refugees, many with complex mental and physical health needs, will be placed at the mercy of traffickers or be radicalised by their experiences. This is deeply worrying. We urge the UK Government to fulfil their international obligations to secure the immediate safety of these children. Anything short of this contravenes the spirit of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The current debate includes considerations of immigration, national sovereignty and security. These are serious matters but it is not right that children are the victims of this wider political calculus. For decades, the British people have shown generosity and compassion to children in need. We cannot stand by whilst the UK Government calibrates its support for Europe’s most vulnerable in political rather than humanitarian terms.


Professor Sir Simon Wessely, President, Royal College of Psychiatrists
Dr Peter Hindley, Chair, Royal College of Psychiatrists' CAMHS Faculty
Professor Neena Modi, President, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
Dr Geoff Debelle, Officer for Child Protection, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
Dr Sebastian Taylor, Head of Global Affairs, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, Executive Director, Institute of Health Visiting
Cecilia Anim, President, Royal College of Nursing
Professor Dame Sue Bailey, Chair, Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Children and Young People's Mental Health Coalition
Professor Maureen Baker, Chair, Royal College of General Practitioners
Professor Derek Bell, President, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
Dr Liam Brennan, President, Royal College of Anaesthetists
Professor David Galloway, President, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow
Dr Asha Kasliwal, President, Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health
Mr Mike Lavell-Jones, President, The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh
Professor Frank Murray, President, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland
Dr Crystal Oldman, Chief Executive, The Queen’s Nursing Institute