The first group of unaccompanied refugee children have left the Calais Jungle bound for the UK after the Home Office promised to repatriate all those eligible to come to the country.
The Calais prefecture confirmed that around 24 unaccompanied children had left the camp but warned that there was “no deal for a large-scale plan” to evacuate the children.
A spokesman told Agence France Presse: “Five Syrian minors and one Afghan minor have just been transferred to the United Kingdom. From Monday, around 10 more minors will follow, then on Tuesday, about 10 more”.
The children are just some of at least 178 who have family connections to the UK but remain living in the makeshift refugee camp on the northern French coast which is due to start being demolished next week.
A report published by the British Red Cross last week found that there were failures at “almost every point” in the process of identifying those children who are eligible to come to the UK.
It said it took between 10 and 11 months on average for child migrants to be transferred due to problems ranging from basic administrative errors to a shortage of staff to facilitate transfers on the French side of the border.
On Monday, Home Secretary Amber Rudd told the House of Commons that she had met with her French counterpart and they had “agreed that [they] have a moral duty to safeguard the welfare of unaccompanied refugee children”.
She said: “The primary responsibility for unaccompanied children in France, including those in the Calais camp, lies with the French authorities.
Calais and Dunkirk camps
Calais and Dunkirk camps
(Photo: Alan Schaller)
A portrait of an Afghan man wearing a traditional Perhan Turban in the Calais Jungle (Photo: Emily Garthwaite)
Two Gendarmes guard the main entrance to the Dunkirk camp (Photo: Emily Garthwaite)
One Kurdish Iraqi man’s reminder to himself (Photo: Alan Schaller)
Two young boys in the Dunkirk camp (Photo: Alan Schaller)
An Iranian hunger striker stands outside the only remaining shelter in the South Side of the Calais camp (Photo: Emily Garthwaite)
A church in the South Calais camp, on of the the only structures not demolished in the South Side of the camp (Photo: Emily Garthwaite)
A man gets a hair cut in the Calais camp (Photo: Alan Schaller)
Night falls on the Calais Jungle. Fires burn in the distance (Photo: Alan Schaller)
The containers provided as alternative accommodation for the people in the camps (Photo: Alan Schaller)
A young boy in the Dunkirk camp (Photo: Alan Schaller)
A man listens to music inside one of the shipping containers (Photo: Emily Garthwaite)
The awful living conditions in the Dunkirk camp (Photo: Alan Schaller)
An Afghan man in the Calais camp (Photo: Emily Garthwaite)
One of the Iranian hunger strikers (Photo: Alan Schaller)
A family in their wooden shelter in the new Dunkirk camp (Photo: Alan Schaller)
“The UK Government have no jurisdiction to operate on French territory and the UK can contribute only in ways agreed with the French authorities and in compliance with French and EU law.
“The UK has made significant progress in speeding up the Dublin process. We have established a permanent official-level contact group, and we have seconded UK experts to the French Government.”
She said the Government was keen to bring as many children to the UK before the camp is demolished and said they would be moved within “days, a week at most”.
Both the Red Cross and Unicef have called on the UK government to do more to help child refugees in the camp - with the former highlighting reports that at least three eligible children have died while trying to make their own way across the English Channel.
A spokesman for the Home Office told The Independent: "As the Home Secretary told the House of Commons on Monday, our priority must be to ensure the safety and security of the children in the Calais camp.
"When she met the French Interior Minister this week she made it crystal clear that we intend to transfer as many minors as possible, who qualify for transfer to the UK to claim asylum on the basis of close family in the UK under the Dublin Regulation, before the start of the clearance.
"In addition, children who are eligible to come to the UK under the Dubs Amendment to the Immigration Act 2016 must be looked after in safe facilities where their best interests are properly considered.
"Work is continuing on both sides of the Channel to ensure this happens as a matter of urgency.”Reuse content