Unicef demands UK house jungle children
The clearing of Calais’ “jungle”. Source: Wikimedia
Unicef has called on the UK authorities to speed up the transfer of unaccompanied child refugees from the so-called “Jungle” refugee camp in Calais.
The UN children’s charity said it feared the planned closure of the camp would lead to children disappearing before they were processed. Charities estimate there are about 400 of the 1,000 unaccompanied minors in the compound are eligible to come to Britain.
The British Home Office claimed it was committed to resettling “vulnerable children”. French President Francois Hollande, while visiting Calais this week, pledged to clear the camp before the end of the year with thousands of its residents due to be relocated to reception centres.
Unicef said many children would resist being sent to the centres while their cases were being processed.
Lily Caprani of Unicef in the UK told the BBC: “Last time part of the Jungle camp was demolished, hundreds of children went missing. We don’t know what happened to them.” She said they could fall into the hands of traffickers or others who would exploit them. “So now with this new threat of demolishing the camp, we’re really concerned for the welfare of those children who are at great risk.”
Financed by Britain, an estimated €2.7-million concrete barrier is being built in Calais as the migrant camp, now with between 7,000 and 10,000 residents is torn down. And despite plans to plant vegetation to soften its impact, it is reminiscent of barriers in places like Austria, Hungary and Macedonia, aimed to keep out migrants.
Charities say about half of the 400 children could be resettled under the European Union’s Dublin regulation, which allows unaccompanied refugee children to be sent to a country where they have a relative.
Britain’s Immigration Act requires the authorities to arrange for the transfer to the UK of unaccompanied refugee children from elsewhere in Europe. The amendment was made by Lord Dubs, a Labour peer and long-time refugee campaigner who came to the UK as a child on the Kinder transport programme to escape the Nazi death camps.
The Home Office said: “We will also continue to support the French government as it provides alternative accommodation to migrants in the camps and returns those not in need of protection to their home countries.”