Calais Jungle: Unaccompanied refugee children will start arriving in the UK within days

‘Many will have also experienced horrendous conditions within, and since fleeing, their country of origin’

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The Independent Online

UK councils are preparing for the arrival of refugee children living in the Calais Jungle camp starting this upcoming week.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced she had stressed to her French counterpart that children eligible to come to the UK should be moved out of the camp before its scheduled demolition begins.

The head of France’s human rights watchdog said the destruction of the makeshift camp would begin this week as French President Francois Hollande is under pressure to deal with the refugee crisis in the country before the elections next spring. 

Charities like Unicef and the British Red Cross have urged the Home Office to move quickly when it comes to bring children with ties to the UK into the country. 

A report by the Red Cross last week found failures at “almost every point” in the process.

It said it had identified at least 178 children living in the camp who were eligible to come to the UK, but it took between 10 and 11 months on average for child migrants to arrive due to problems ranging from basic administrative errors to a shortage of staff to facilitate transfers on the French side of the border.

The delay has meant more and more children are trying to make the dangerous journey across the English Channel rather than waiting for the transfer. 

Last month, a 14-year-old Afghan boy who was eligible to come to the UK became the youngest person to die trying to make the crossing when he was hit by a lorry as he tried to get on.

Under EU regulations, asylum claims have to be made in the first safe country they reach but children with family ties to the UK can have their claim transferred. 

The Dubs Amendment to the Immigration Act, introduced by Labour peer and former child refugee Lord Alfred Dubs earlier this year, means the Government is required to resettle child refugees with links to the UK.

David Simmonds, chairman of the Local Government Association’s asylum, refugee and migration task group, said councils have a strong record of supporting children travelling alone.

The British Red Cross estimates there are at least 178 refugee children in Calais who are eligible to come to the UK (Getty)

“The number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children living in England increased by more than 60 per cent to over 4,000 in the last year, and the vast majority of councils are already providing care and support for these vulnerable children and young people,” he said.

“Those arriving from the Calais camp will require care and support packages directly from councils and their partners.

“For those children relocated with existing family living in the UK, councils will still want to be assured that arrangements put in place can meet the child’s needs and that they are safe and well.

“Many will have also experienced horrendous conditions within, and since fleeing, their country of origin, so councils will want to ensure they are able to settle into communities as quickly and easily as possible with ongoing support made available when they need it.”

He said councils had offered to provide social workers to carry out assessments on the children, but warned the Government needed to provide adequate long term funding help the children build new lives in the UK.

Ms Rudd told the Commons on Monday that more than 80 unaccompanied children had been accepted for transfer so far this year.

The Home Secretary also said that more than 50 children had been taken, largely from Greece, under Lord Dubs' amendment to the Immigration Act.

Additional reporting by PA