Unaccompanied minors stranded in the Jungle as ‘chaotic’ clear-out begins
UNACCOMPANIED children as young as eight were left stranded in the Calais refugee camp yesterday as work began to demolish it.
Aid workers involved in the Jungle say the camp housed more than 8,000 refugees, including almost 1,500 unaccompanied children and teenagers.
The situation for the unaccompanied minors remains desperate, with not a single child having been resettled in Britain under the Dubs amendment.
No specific provision has been made to guarantee the safety of children.
The Help Refugees charity warned that 49 unaccompanied children aged 13 or under are still in the camp, with the Home Office unable to register them.
A Help Refugees spokeswoman said: “As such, the most vulnerable group, the under-13s (who would qualify under the Dubs amendment), are being forced to remain in the Calais camp amid all the confusion and chaos.
“There are also many unaccompanied girls remaining in camp who are eligible to come to the UK but who were not registered over the weekend.
“This chaotic set-up is extremely distressing and confusing for the lone minors. The youngest is eight years old.”
“The younger children are struggling to understand where they are supposed to go, and how they are supposed to get there.”
The Dubs amendment, which committed the government to providing a safe haven for stranded children, is named after Labour Peer Lord Alfred Dubs who proposed it.
Lord Dubs came to Britain as a refugee from Czechoslovakia fleeing nazi oppression more than 70 years ago.
Help Refugees urged the government “to expedite the cases of the minors eligible for resettlement under the Dubs amendment.”
The arrival of lone refugee children has stretched services in Britain, with Kent County Council’s demand for foster carers reaching crisis point.
Transfer of unaccompanied children from the camp to Britain was halted temporarily at the request of the French government yesterday while demolition proceeded.
They will be housed in containers in a “safe” zone at the camp for the time being.
Most of the refugees are being relocated to 160 accommodation centres in France, where asylum claims will be dealt with.
But Labour shadow home secretary Diane Abbott condemned the “disgraceful” treatment of the refugees.
She said: “The refugees should have been processed and checked before any dispersal and destruction of the camp.
“It seems certain that people who have a right to refugee status or asylum, in either France or in this country, will be denied.
“Children will now be even more vulnerable to people traffickers, or worse.
“The British government has failed in its duties, foot-dragging through the whole process. It should be protecting people who have a right to come here, not colluding in this process.”
Care4Calais refugee crisis charity founder Claire Moseley said the Jungle was likely to re-emerge despite its demolition.
Ms Moseley, who has drawn parallels between the treatment of migrants in France with that of persecuted Jews in nazi Germany, said: “I think people will still come.
“With refugees, deterrents don’t matter because a refugee by definition is fleeing something.”
Most bear the physical and emotional scars from fleeing war, poverty and persecution from their ravaged countries including Afghanistan, Sudan and Eritrea.
Ms Moseley said: “They are not coming here because they have a choice, they are coming here because they have no choice.”
The unofficial camp was previously tolerated but given almost no state help. Aid groups and hundreds of British volunteers have provided basic necessities.