Refugee crisis: Fears of children vanishing from Calais Jungle as numbers at camp hit record high

'In an eviction children go missing. They could have fallen into the hands of traffickers or worse,' says refugee charity founder

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The Independent Online

The population of the “Jungle” camp in Calais has soared to new levels and now includes more than 750 children, a new census has revealed amid fresh threats of eviction.

The southern half of the camp was razed to the ground earlier this year, but a new census by two leading charities has shown the community is larger than ever before.

The population of the camp now stands at more than 7,300 and is growing by 15 per cent every month.

With 50 people arriving every day, the number is expected to reach 10,000 by September.

The mix of tents, temporary accommodation and other shelters mainly house refugees from the Middle East and Africa.

Included in the thousands are 761 children. The youngest child is four months old, making it likely they were born a refugee.

More than 600, or 80 per cent, of the children are not accompanied by an adult. The youngest of these is eight years old.

According to the charity Help Refugees, more than one hundred of the children travelling alone went missing after the last demolition of the ramshackle site.

The right-wing mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, has vowed to destroy the remaining half of the camp “very soon”. Ms Bouchart has said she had the support of French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

Help Refugees co-founder, Josie Naughton, told The Independent: “During the last eviction 129 unaccompanied minors were unaccounted for. In the absence of any official system of registration it's impossible to create robust systems of protection.

“In moments of chaos, like that of an eviction, children go missing and no one has any system to identify where they have gone.”

She said it was possible the children would be found safe, but “equally they could have fallen into the hands of traffickers or worse”.

The unaccompanied child refugees have been staying in the Calais camp for about five months on average. Yet some have been living there for more than a year in the hope they will make it to the UK. Many are waiting to be reunited with family in the UK.

Ms Naughton added: “There are 10,000 children who have reportedly gone missing in Europe so far. Another eviction could add hundreds more to that devastating tally.”

Some secured government accommodation has been built on the site, but the latest census reveals that 75 per cent of adults and 70 per cent of children are staying in tents and other makeshift shelters.

Earlier this year, a report by the Refugee Rights Data Project found that  75 per cent of refugees at the camp say they have "experienced police violence".

The increase in the numbers at the site in unexpected, since refugee charities had predicted the numbers would slow due to tighter border control between Turkey and the EU.