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Child Soldiers

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment she has made of the recent UN report on child soldiers. [88777]

Clare Short: The latest UN Secretary General's report on children and armed conflict covers a range of issues, including child soldiers, on which we are actively engaged. My Department finds the report a useful source of information and guidance. The emphasis on the Xera of application" is particularly to be welcomed and supported.

While the report provides some cause for optimism, for instance the coming into force of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, there is much more to be done to reduce the impact of armed conflict on children, their families and communities. The best way to achieve this is by the prevention, reduction and resolution of armed conflicts. My Department has intensified its work with other Government Departments to this end. While the Secretary General's report, pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1379, identifies various countries where the direct use of children in conflict continues, it is to be welcomed that the report also focuses on those aspects of children and armed conflict that tend to receive less attention, such as the impact of land-mines and the sexual exploitation of girls.

Mrs. Caroline Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions she has had with the Governments of (a) Afghanistan, (b) Burundi, (c) the Democratic Republic of Congo, (d) Liberia, (e) Somalia, (f) Burma and (g) Colombia on the recent UN Report on child soldiers; and what efforts she is making to end the practice of using child soldiers. [88778]

Clare Short: No direct discussions have been held with the above-mentioned Governments and Administrations specifically on the recent report. In Afghanistan the UK will be sending an expert to support the UN and the transitional authority with the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of former and current combatants. The new Afghan National Army will have no child soldiers in its ranks.

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The UK is both very actively engaged in the peace processes in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi and a major contributor to the process of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration in the Great Lakes region. We are also playing a part in the Somalia peace process. Information from a number of sources, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the United Nations, indicates that use of child soldiers is a serious problem in Burma, both by the Burmese army and various Burmese insurgent groups. In November, the EU co-sponsored a resolution on Burma at the United Nations General Assembly that expressed grave concern over the human rights situation in Burma, including the use of child soldiers.

In addition UNICEF has recently produced, with our assistance, a publication on the use of child soldiers in the East Asia and Pacific region. The Quaker United Nations Office has recently produced a ground-breaking report—with my Department's support—on the lives of girl child soldiers in Colombia, Angola, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. For instance, the report describes particularly the relationship between sexual or physical abuse and exploitation at home and girls' willingness to become involved in armed conflict and how living in poverty played a key role in girls joining a movement or being abducted.

Children (Trauma)

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what her Department is doing to help children suffering grave psychological trauma as a result of conflict situations; [88635]

Clare Short: Armed conflict often seriously affects the development of children including by the infliction of serious damage to their physical and mental health. Children are damaged through land-mines, direct targeting of their homes and schools, sexual violence including rape and being forced to take part in direct hostilities. The best way to protect children from the impact of armed conflict is to prevent, reduce and resolve conflict. My Department has intensified its work with other Government Departments to this end. DFID also provides humanitarian assistance to children displaced by conflict or who have lost their families. We support efforts by the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent to try to ensure compliance with international humanitarian law. DFID also supports the work of UNICEF, UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies of the United Nations, as well as humanitarian NGOs. Many of these provide direct assistance to children who have been subjected to acts of physical and mental violence and their families and communities. This assistance can take the form of the provision of a safe place to live, health care, education, psycho-social assistance and food aid. For instance my Department has a global commitment to UNHCR of #14 million per year. This is in addition to targeted contributions in response to specific regional situations.

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Our work with UNICEF, UNHCR and humanitarian non-governmental organisations is also concerned with increasing their capacity to respond appropriately to children who have been treated so egregiously in armed conflict situations.

Women and girls are targeted for sexual abuse and exploitation in situations of armed conflict, often as a deliberate strategy to terrorise them and their families. This issue was highlighted during the recent open debate on women peace and security at the UN Security Council in October when the UK had the Chair. The UK has also been instrumental in encouraging the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on this issue, which emphasised the use of sexual violence against women and girls. DFID is supporting the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) in its multi-year programme to identify the causes and impact of sexual violence against women and girls in conflict situations. It also supports the UN Department of Peace-Keeping Operations and non-governmental organisations to highlight gender issues, including sexual violence, associated with conflict.


John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment she has made of the numbers of children aged (a) 1 to 3 and (b) 4 to 5 years old suffering from malnutrition in Eritrea; and if she will make a statement. [88683]

Clare Short: We do not have a specific breakdown by age of the number of children suffering from malnutrition in Eritrea. However, UNICEF have reported that, as of July 2002, three out of the six zones of Eritrea were showing levels of malnutrition in children above 15 per cent., and that more recent surveys have shown an increase.

UN Relief and Works Agency

Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make a statement on Government funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency. [88611]

Clare Short: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave the hon. Member for South-East Cornwall (Mr. Breed) earlier today.


Asylum Seekers

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to make changes to the use of asylum centres to process applications; how many asylum seekers are housed in accommodation centres; and where asylum seekers are placed when the centres are full. [88859]

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Beverley Hughes: Accommodation centres will be introduced on a trial basis with a total capacity of around 3,000 in the trial period. We have made clear our intention that accommodation centres will contribute to faster processing of asylum claims with caseworking and appeal hearings taking place on-site at the centres unless there are sound pragmatic reasons for not doing so. Destitute asylum seekers who qualify for support but who are not placed in the accommodation centres will be supported under existing dispersal arrangements.

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Mr. Love: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many asylum seekers needing accommodation were dispersed to each region of UK in each month since the introduction of the NASS. [89409]

Beverley Hughes: Figures are only available on a quarterly basis.

The table shows the number of asylum seekers (including dependants) who were supported in the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) accommodation as at the end of each quarter since June 2000. 1 Figures are not available for the number of new asylum seekers who were dispersed in each quarter.

RegionJune 2000September 2000December 2000March 2001June 2001
East Midlands1403007601,1401,485
East of England000140205
Greater London70140245405620
North East6001,1202,4203,2104,055
North West1,0901,7853,4154,5805,870
Northern Ireland0004050
South Central140175195220365
South West5100380425485
West Midlands955001,3502,1253,610
Yorkshire and Humberside5701,6603,5504,8455,930
Overall total3,3156,70013,53519,54026,505

RegionSeptember 2001December 2001March 2002June 2002September 2002
East Midlands2,2553,2153,7404,0454,400
East of England235320470520550
Greater London8701,4701,8702,2302,365
North East4,3304,7655,4355,7505,700
North West6,8858,1558,8709,50010,250
Northern Ireland65758590125
South Central6058001,0151,0401,055
South West595665765815830
West Midlands5,2956,9308,0359,3409,975
Yorkshire and Humberside7,1158,4709,4559,5609,690
Overall total32,89040,32545,64049,08551,590

(5) All figures have been rounded to the nearest five. Figures between one and two are represented by a *. Figures for each quarter exclude cases where support has been ceased before the end of that quarter.

Statistics on the number of asylum seekers supported by NASS in each region are published quarterly on the Home Office's immigration statistics website:

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