Concerns over children in Calais as France prepares to demolish refugee camp

The camp's estimated 6,500 inhabitants are due to be moved to French refugee centres

Concerns over children in Calais as France prepares to demolish refugee camp

People walk along a street in a makeshift migrant camp near Calais, France, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016 Image: AP Photo/Thibault Camus

The migrant camp in Calais known as the "jungle" is due to be demolished tomorrow with thousands of people moved to French refugee centres.

Charity group, Citizens UK said around 200 children have arrived in the UK from the camp this week - with 20 girls arriving today.

The children were among the latest wave of young arrivals to cross the channel following a change to Britain’s Immigration act.

The ‘Dubs amendment’ which passed into law in the UK earlier this year means Britain has a responsibility to accept some of the "most vulnerable" unaccompanied child refugees – including those with no ties to the UK.

The British government has been criticised for acting too slowly, but claims it is doing all it can to ensure all eligible children are brought to the UK as soon as possible.

Stephen Cowan from Fulham Council in London says he has been in contact with the British Home Office to try and re-house the incoming children:

Community Organiser for Citizens UK, George Gabriel welcomed the children’s arrival in London but said he is concerned about the large numbers still in Calais.

“We know at the last demolition 126 children went missing and we are extremely concerned that there are large numbers of children - who have the right to be protected here in Britain - who will just vanish,” he said.

“The system will be so chaotic and the bulldozers and the police will move in and there will be nowhere for them to go.”

The Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) has called on the government to take on greater responsibility with only 550 people resettled here to date – despite the government’s promise to take in 4,000 by next year.

ICI CEO Brian Killoran said the “the recent commitment to take in only twenty lone children this year shows just how far we are from a humanitarian response to the extent of the crisis.”

“To ignore the fact that there are more than a thousand children without family in the camp facing an unclear future is unacceptable and we can do better,” he said. 

“We are calling on the Irish and European governments to remember that we are talking about children who are alone, having survived traumatic experiences and being left in inhumane conditions without access to formal education. 

“These minors are at extreme risk of exploitation and trafficking, and a humanitarian response must be put in place to ensure that these minors are transported safely from the camp, and given safe and secure accommodation until their fate is further decided. 

“Action needs to be taken to ensure they will be protected from any further risks facing them.”

Demolition teams are preparing to move into the camp on Monday to clear the estimated 6,500 inhabitants.

Citizens UK estimates that as many as 1,000 children may still be resident there.

The Sunday times in Britain reports that anti-capitalist protest group No Borders are heading to Calais in an attempt to block the demolition.

At a meeting in south-east London last Sunday, one activist told the paper that "lots of us will be going down" and warned people should not join them unless they "understood the risks."