UK to take 10 refugee children from Calais 'Jungle' with more to follow later

Calais authorities say 24 unaccompanied migrant children have already left the camp

Caroline Mortimer
Sunday 16 October 2016 18:33
One Syrian and five Afghan boys wave on the platform of the Calais train station, northern France, as they leave for Britain on Thursday
One Syrian and five Afghan boys wave on the platform of the Calais train station, northern France, as they leave for Britain on Thursday

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.

“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.”

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