The whereabouts of one in 10 of the child refugees in Calais who have been put on a list of children eligible to come to the UK is currently unknown, it has been revealed.
Citizens UK’s Safe Passage programme has found that of the 178 children it identified as eligible for family reunification in the UK in August, 18 cannot be traced - and one of them has been confirmed as missing.
The findings come the day after Home Secretary Amber Rudd pledged to bring “hundreds” of unaccompanied children from Calais to the UK “within weeks”.
On 5 August the British and French authorities were presented with the list of eligible child refugees and advised that while the Safe Passage was working to transfer as many as possible, it needed assistance from the Home Office to process them all. So far none of the children listed have been deported.
Citizens UK have said the figures “highlight the urgency” of transferring children to the UK before the demolition begins and urged the Home Secretary to “live up to our responsibilities”, saying the Government should have started the process as soon as the list was drawn up.
Charlotte Morris, a spokesperson for Citizens UK, told The Independent: “The Government should have taken action in August. They’ve known about this list for months. They’ve known the demolition was coming since it was announced in July. Now a child who had reunification rights has gone missing.
“We welcomed Ms Rudd’s announcement but let’s wait and see. We can't celebrate too soon.”
In light of the findings Rabbi Janet Darley, a leader of Citizens UK, said: “Yesterday we celebrated the news that the government has committed to bring ‘hundreds’ of children to safety in Calais. Today’s report highlights the urgency of safeguarding the children in Calais before the demolition begins and the real need for a system that works once it is complete.
“We urge the Home Secretary to respond to this situation with the urgency it requires, bring the remaining children to the UK as soon as possible, and live up to our responsibilities by creating a system in which no children with a right to re-join their families in Britain ever go missing again.”
Ms Rudd announced yesterday that British and French ministers were close to a deal to safeguard or bring to the UK hundreds of unaccompanied refugee children before the closure of the camp, expected to begin next week.
Following a meeting on Monday with her French counterpart, Bernard Cazeneuve, Ms Rudd said the joint operation would prioritise safeguarding children aged under 12, adding that a list of children eligible to live in the UK would be provided by the French government to begin this process.
But while her announcement has been welcomed, pressure is mounting for a more concrete plan of action. During a Commons debate Ms Rudd was accused of being all “words” and not enough “action”.
Diane Abbott addressed the Home Secretary saying: “On the question of these children in these desperate conditions, will you stand up and do what people all over this country want us to do - fulfil our moral responsibilities? Fewer words, more action.”
The French authorities have said the camp is to be demolished “within weeks” and that migrants and refugees will be redistributed in designated reception centres across France.
Unicef has recently 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.
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