Future of child refugees becomes 'hot potato' for France and UK

Tensions rose this week between the two countries over who will take care of the young refugees after bulldozers demolished the Calais camp.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Minor refugees wait for their registration and their evacuation on the third day of the dismantlement of the camp called the 'Jungle' in Calais, France, October 26, 2016. REUTERS

French President Francois Hollande said on Saturday he had spoken with British Prime Minister Theresa May to convey the message that Britain should take its share of responsibility for minors from the "Jungle" refugee camp of Calais.

Tension arose this week between the two countries over who will take care of young refugees after bulldozers demolished the camp that had been home to over 6,000 refugees hoping to cross the Channel to Britain.

Hollande said 5,000 people had been evacuated from Calais and that there were 1,500 unaccompanied minors left, who would be transferred swiftly to other reception centres.

Smoke rises the sky as refugees and journalists look at burning makeshift shelters and tents in the 'Jungle' on the third day of their evacuation and transfer to reception centres in France, as part of the dismantlement of the camp in Calais, France. (Reuters)

"I talked yesterday with the British prime minister, as French Interior Minister)Bernard Cazeneuve did with his British counterpart, so that the British can go to those centres with those minors and take their share of responsibility to welcome them in Britain," Hollande said.

The issue is sensitive in both countries and the head of France's Ofpra refugee agency, Pascal Brice, said on Friday: "We've done Britain's work in tending to the adults."

"The least they can do is take care of the isolated minors who are now at the CAP (temporary lodgings) and who have an interest in going to Britain," he told Reuters.

European Union rules say Britain must take in unaccompanied children who have family ties there.

Britain has so far accepted 274 children from among this group, France said on Thursday.

There are some 2,000 to 2,500 sleeping in tents in the northeast Paris camps, up from around 1,500 before Calais started being dismantled, a local official told Reuters on Friday, adding that some came from the "Jungle" and others from other areas.

"We will carry out the same operation as in Calais," Hollande said. "We will evacuate the Paris camps."