AN SNP MP has called on the British Government to take responsibility for the hundreds of children with a legal right to be in the UK that she said are “instead stuck in limbo” in refugee camps in Northern France.

Home Secretary Theresa May faced calls at Westminster to “show leadership” and to support vulnerable child refugees from the SNP’s justice and home affairs spokeswoman Joanna Cherry, who returned from a four-day visit to camps at Calais and Grand-Synthe during the Easter Commons recess.

Cherry’s call came after a report from the Citizens UK campaign group identified at least 150 young people in Calais with a legal right to be reunited with families in Britain.

However, she said that only a handful of under-18s have been granted this right to date.

Cherry talked about the “squalid conditions” in the camps and the “utterly disgraceful” situation facing the child refugees, during Home Office questions in the House of Commons.

The MP for Edinburgh South West, challenged Home Office minister Richard Harrington, over delays processing refugee applications after he told the Commons that such work had been “speeded up”.

Cherry said: “The Minister’s answer is not good enough. What is happening in these camps is utterly disgraceful. In the Grand-Synthe camp, I met a 16-year old girl studying hard in the pop-up school run by a group of British volunteers.

“She made the dangerous journey to Northern France alone. Her father lives in the UK but due to an absence of guidance from French authorities and the failure of the UK Government to act, she was stuck in limbo and uncertain about her future. Children like her are vulnerable. It is time for the Home Secretary to show leadership and to give us a commitment that her department will ensure that those with a legal right to join their families are granted that right urgently. Will she do that now without further delay?”

However, Home Office Minister Harrington responding said that the child refugees were “predominantly the responsibility of the French Government”.

He added: “The process has speeded up more than it ever used to be.” Cherry, who was joined by a delegation of refugee and human rights experts to volunteer and bear witness to the conditions and issues facing those in the camps, called on the UK Government to take “the SNP’s plea seriously” over the plight of child refugees.

She added: “It is now crucial that the UK Government takes the SNP’s plea seriously. Hundreds of children in Calais have a legal right to be in the UK but are instead languishing in the holding pens of Northern France at risk of smuggling, trafficking, abuse and extortion.

“The length of time it has taken to process take charge requests is deeply unacceptable and has ultimately contributed towards a generation of young people in limbo and living in squalid conditions in the refugee camps of Calais and Grand-Synthe.”

Steve Symonds, Amnesty UK’s refugee and migrant rights programme director, speaking about the conditions in the camps, said: “Governments right across Europe urgently need to stop treating refugees as somebody else’s problem, and start taking and sharing responsibility. The UK Government’s failure in this regard is shown most starkly by its persistent refusal to share responsibility with France for asylum-seekers at Calais and Dunkirk, including many with family in the UK.”