Demolition of Calais Jungle could begin later this month, says head of France’s human rights watchdog

Jacques Toubon has expressed 'deep concern' over the 'absence of provision' in place for vulnerable camp residents following demolition

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The Independent Online

The demolition of the Calais Jungle will begin on 17 October, the head of France’s human rights watchdog has indicated, while voicing “deep concern” over the lack of provisions in place for unaccompanied minors.

Jacques Toubon, former French minister of justice, has written a letter to the Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, urging him to establish arrangements for unaccompanied minors following the demolition.

In a statement released by France’s human rights watchdog, Mr Toubon said: “The total destruction of all the camps and its facilities could begin on 17 October.

“Yet the provision of shelter for unaccompanied minors is still not in operation, which will make the situation for lone children even more dangerous.”

Mr Toubon said there was a lack of sufficient planning as to what will happen to ensure the safety of unaccompanied minors when the camp is demolished. “In the absence of certain information, it currently looks as though nothing has been considered for the young people whose asylum applications to be reunited with family in Britain have been filed or are in the process of being looked at."

“There is nothing to indicate that they will continue to be accompanied and looked after in their journey after the the camp is dismantled,” he continued.

In his letter to Mr Cazeneuve, Mr Toubon demanded more information on the plans, specifically "the number of accommodation places available and their location".

The local authority in Calais denied there was a scheduled date for the demolition of the camp. A spokesperson told The Independent: “The date is not yet known. It will begin in the coming weeks.

“The agencies are still in the process of preparing the operation of providing shelter. The objective is that the demolition will be finished before the start of winter so these people are not left in this miserable camp this winter.”

On the issue of the reported lack of provision, the spokesperson said there would be “sufficient” places for “all of the migrants currently present in Calais” and that the state was initiating a “comprehensive plan” to provide alternative shelter for the camp’s inhabitants, with particular attention on unaccompanied minors.

He added: “The purpose of the operation is to provide shelter for migrants who have fled war and persecutions in their countries and who are currently living in miserable conditions in the camp.

"A particular attention will be placed on minors: every minor will be considered in accordance with their rights to receive the necessary support."

The French government estimates there are currently around 7,000 refugees and migrants living in the camp, but charities on the ground say the figure stands at more than 10,000. Among them are an estimated 400 unaccompanied children who are said to be eligible to come to Britain.

At the start of September Mr Cazeneuve vowed to dismantle the Jungle “as quickly as possible”, saying the closure would go ahead “with the greatest determination” in order to “unblock Calais”.  

French President Francoise Hollande pledged that the camp's residents would be housed in one of the country's 164 reception centres, said to hold between 40 and 50 people each for up to four months, while their cases are examined.

But concerns have been raised among charity workers and aid organisations over the lack of sufficient provision once the camp is gone. Online emergency appeals have been set up by volunteers to collect donations such as sleeping bags and suitcases in preparation for the demolition.

Charity workers have said they believe it is “unlikely” they will be given a set date before the demolition begins, saying the authorities are likely “to keep everyone guessing” to avoid organised resistance.

Last week Unicef called on the UK Government to allow unaccompanied child refugees in Calais to come to Britain, expressing its concern over the planned closure of the camp and the risks of children disappearing before they can be processed.

Mr Hollande recently warned the UK that it must "play its part" in resolving the migrant crisis, and that its "sovereign decision" to leave the EU did not excuse the country of its obligations to refugees in Calais.

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