The shoes of children left behind – why campaigners left children’s shoes outside Truro Cathedral

Dozens of children’s shoes were left on the steps of Truro Cathedral last Sunday (29th May) as a striking stunt in opposition of MPs voting records, highlighting the lack of safe routes for families reuniting in post-Brexit Britain.

Shoes represented children unable to be reunited with families in the UK | Jory Mundy

Organized by members of the Newquay Refugee Support Group (NRSG), children’s shoes were left outside Truro Cathedral between 12 PM and 2 PM to highlight the lack of safe routes for child refugees still in Europe, unable to be reunited with their families in the UK due to a recent amendment which would allow it to be rejected by all six Cornish MPs. Campaigners have said the action shames all Cornish MPs who voted against the Dubs amendment which would allow child refugees to be reunited with their families in the UK as a part of the Home Office’s refugee acceptance scheme. The amendment was proposed by Lord Alf Dubs who was brought to the UK as a child refugee in WW2, and aims to widen family reunion rules. However, all 6 Cornish MPs voted against his amendment, and following government opposition, the amendment failed. Due to this, child refugees in Europe have no other option than to make the dangerous journey across the channel themselves, which critics fear could result in more trafficking cases.

As the bill was not renewed as part of the post-Brexit deals, this resulted in charities such as Safe Passage suggesting they can no longer support 95% of their current cases unless the law is reinstated to allow this. Additionally, the recent Nationality and Borders Bill makes travel more dangerous for adult and children refugees, a decision which has been criticized by various campaign groups.

Phoebe McCauley, a local campaigner with Safe Passage International, said: “the shoes represent all the children who are currently on their own, that have been let down by the UK Government and Cornish MPs. We wanted to send a message to our local representatives that we’re ashamed they didn’t do more to help unaccompanied children to be with their families again. We’ve abandoned these shoes outside Truro Cathedral, like our MPs have abandoned child refugees”.

Over 50 pairs of children’s shoes and a banner were left by Truro Cathedral | Jory Mundy

Phoebe went on to say that “while an opportunity to embed safe routes for unaccompanied children into UK law was just missed, we urge Cornish MPs to advocate for every child refugee who is alone and missing their family. The UK Government must offer quick and easy ways for children to join loved ones here”.

The action was organised by NRSG and Safe Passage UK, but was supported by other Cornish refugee groups such as Truro, Falmouth/Penryn, Redruth and Bude who donated shoes for the action to take place. The demonstration was well-received by passers-by: stopping, asking questions, taking leaflets and supporting laws such as those proposed by Lord Dubs. The shoes were later donated to charities in Newquay, so that those who needed them the most could access them.