Calais ‘Jungle’ teens set to join relatives in Britain
Fourteen unaccompanied teenagers who have been living in the Calais "Jungle" were set to be reunited with relatives after being transferred to Britain on Monday, ahead of the demolition of the French migrant camp.
The arrival of the children, who the Home Office interior ministry said were aged between 14 and 17 and from countries including Syria and Sudan, are due to be followed by dozens more in the coming days.
They are entitled to move to Britain under EU asylum law due to their family ties to those already in the UK. But campaigners and faith leaders warned there were many more left behind who also deserved the country’s help.
“We know that at least three children have died trying to get into Britain. Three children who actually had a legal right to be with their families,” said former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
Speaking to reporters in Croydon in south London, where the teenagers were being processed, he said: “I really hope it will be the beginning of some kind of new life experience with none of the horrors they’ve endured.”
More than 80 unaccompanied children have so far been accepted to Britain under EU asylum law this year, according to the Home Office.
Earlier this year, the government also agreed to accept a limited number of vulnerable refugee children without family ties, but campaigners say that this has yet to be applied.
Charities estimate up to 10,000 migrants from Africa, the Middle East and Asia have settled in the “Jungle” in the hope of reaching Britain, but French authorities are expected to close it down by the end of the year.
“No child must be left behind in the chaos of demolition,” said Lord Alf Dubs, who fled the Nazis for Britain in 1939 and helped force the change in the law on child refugees.
A Home Office spokeswoman said Britain had agreed to transfer “as many minors as possible” under EU asylum law before the Calais camp is closed.
She said that those eligible under British law must be looked after while their cases were assessed, adding: “Work is continuing on both sides of the Channel to ensure this happens as a matter of urgency.”
The charity Citizens UK helped identify the children and bring them to Britain.
“At long last the two governments are starting to roll up their sleeves and uphold the rule of law in Calais,” spokesman George Gabriel told AFP.
“Before any demolition takes place, we’ve got to ensure that the children who are eligible for transfer are safely accommodated and the ones who aren’t, safely accommodated with France.
“The idea that this is beyond two of the richest countries on Earth is surely ludicrous.”