NEXT week sees the start of a seven-day celebration of the huge contribution refugees have made to this country.

Refugee Week, which runs from June 18-24, marks the 20th anniversary of a movement which has become a significant national force in bringing communities together to support those for whom leaving their home has not been a choice but a necessity.

In Bradford, the series of events culminates on Saturday in a festival, in Centenary Square, which will be shared with the 70th anniversary celebrations of the arrival of the Windrush migrants from the Caribbean.

Bradford has a proud history of welcoming newcomers from all corners of the world and in 2010 it became only the third city to be formally recognised as a City of Sanctuary. Its record dates to before the Huguenots – who fled religious persecution in France in the 17th century – taking in groups as diverse as the 250 Basques who settled here after quitting Fascist Spain in 1937, and the 21st century influx from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia and the Congo, among many others.

However, helping refugees to settle and integrate is not always the only, or best, answer and Bradford has also helped lead the way in finding creative solutions which can provide a better future for some.

Increasing numbers of children who become separated from their families across international borders find themselves in care systems, usually run by local councils, which are rarely suitable for their long-term needs. Local authorities, in turn, are left to pick up bills for providing such care which can often top £40,000 per child per year.

For children whose parents have died, who have been trafficked or exploited or are travelling as unaccompanied refugees, being reunited with their families, even distant relatives, must surely be a better option. Children and Families Across Borders (CFAB) is a national charity which believes all children should have the opportunity to enjoy their right to a family life wherever possible, and be protected from abuse and exploitation, regardless of where they are from. It has been transforming children’s lives for 60 years and, with more children on the move than at any time since WW2, its work has never been more relevant or necessary. It has decades of experience working with social services abroad in professionally assessing long-term care options for children in both the UK and more than 120 other countries.

CFAB’s chief executive, Carolyn Housman, says the organisation is expert at resolving complex international child protection cases, making sure children are cared for and protected and, where possible, reuniting them with family members. “We understand how intimidating and confusing international child protection can be, so we help children’s services teams within local authorities and other agencies to navigate the legal, administrative, immigration and social care challenges effectively,” she said. “Our expert team of social workers and international partners help to ensure the children and families affected understand what is happening and have a say in any decisions impacting on their lives.”

Children like Rhiam who, at just 15, was orphaned in attacks on her town during the Syrian Civil War. She fled the country with members of her extended family but, in the confusion, they became separated.

Rhiam was eventually found alone in Italy and placed in foster care. CFAB traced a cousin, Amira, who was living in England, but her local authority said it couldn't intervene because Rhiam was not in the UK. The charity sent one of its experts to meet Amira and assess whether she was able to care for her cousin and he concluded it would be in Rhiam’s best interests to be cared for by Amira. “On the basis of CFAB’s recommendations, the Italian court ruled Rhiam should be allowed to join her cousin,” said Ms Housman. “Without CFAB’s help it is likely Rhiam would still be in foster care in Italy, separated from her only remaining family.”

In recent years, Bradford Council has worked with CFAB to identify the best future for a number of its refugee children.

Strategic Director of Children’s Services Michael Jameson says: “Bradford has benefited from the expertise of CFAB with a number of complex cross border cases. “Cross border work is, by definition, complex, working across different languages and legislation. As a Children’s Services Department we need to do what is right for the child and not let the complexity get in the way of family reunifications.”

But it’s not an effort a local authority social worker would find easy or straightforward to undertake. “Using both the advice line and case work, CFAB have helped our Social Workers navigate through these systems and provide evidence that is acceptable to the Family Court in making decisions,” said Mr Jameson.

“Their expertise has saved our social work teams significant time and more importantly has prevented drift and delay in assessing family members across borders.”

At a time when local authorities’ children’s services budgets are under increasing pressure, it seems – for once – a more cost-efficient solution can also prove to be the most humane.