Fate of child refugees unclear as France closes Calais camp

Charities are accusing France and Britain of failing to protect the futures of more than 1,300 unaccompanied child refugees. The children live in the 'Jungle' camp near Calais which will be dismantled today.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Refugees leave the "Jungle" migrant camp in Calais, northern France, on the eve of the camp's planned evacuation, October 23, 2016

Updated Oct 24, 2016

Charities have accused France and Britain of failing to protect the futures of more than 1,300 unaccompanied child refugees residing in the makeshift camp dubbed the “Jungle” near Calais just a day before it is to be dismantled.

Aid workers in the camp have criticised the slow pace at which the applications of children fleeing countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea have been processed.

"All this should have been done a long time ago," Francois Guennoc from the charity Auberge des Migrants told Reuters.

The UK government has prioritised children and youths who can claim family ties in Britain and on Friday a French Interior Ministry official said they were still negotiating over hundreds more with no such connections.

Allaodil, a Sudanese boy who says he is 14, was wandering on Sunday through the Jungle's garbage-strewn mud alleyways, shivering underneath a blanket.

"My brother has been in the United Kingdom, in Glasgow, for three years and has a job there," said Allaodil in faltering English, adding that he wanted to join his elder sibling.

He said the British authorities were aware of his case but still did not know whether he would be granted asylum in Britain or forced to relocate in France.

Meanwhile, the first group of refugee children have begun to arrive in the UK.

By Saturday, nearly 200 minors had been given a one-way ticket to Britain under a fast-tracked process launched a week ago, according to France Terre d'Asile, a charity helping in the process.

"We have yet to convince some people to accept accommodation and give up their dream of Britain. That's the hardest part," Didier Leschi, head of the French immigration office OFII, told AFP.

Closing Down Camp

The camp's demolition and the resettlement of its estimated 6,000 to 8,000 residents in refugee shelters around the country is due to get under way on Monday morning.

Officials and aid workers distributed flyers on Sunday telling refugees in text and pictures to show up at a hangar near the camp from 0600 GMT with their luggage.

French CRS police are in silhouette as they pass flames on the eve of the evacuation and transfer of refugees to reception centers in France, and the dismantlement of the camp called the "Jungle" in Calais, France, October 23, 2016

From there the refugees -- mostly Afghans, Sudanese and Eritrean males -- will be taken by bus to temporary shelters, where they can seek asylum.

Some 145 buses will be deployed over the course of the three-day move.

Most of the refugees who travelled thousands of miles to Calais did so in the hope of stowing away on a lorry heading to Britain, where they have contacts and believe their job prospects are better.

TRTWorld and agencies