Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, has written to the French Government calling on them to take urgent action to speed up the processing of 150 lone child asylum seekers in the Calais refugee camp who may be eligible to travel to the UK.
The children, some of whom are as young as 10 years old, and all of whom have fled war and fighting in countries such as Syria, have been identified by charities working in the camp as potentially eligible to travel to the UK under the Dublin III agreement, which protects young unaccompanied children by allowing those of them who have parents or siblings in Britain to join them.
The Children’s Commissioner has also expressed concern about the failure to find and trace a reported 129 lone children, many of whom are eligible to travel to the UK, who have gone missing since the French authorities dismantled parts of the camp and moved the inhabitants in early March.
Anne Longfield has asked the French authorities to establish a dedicated centre to process the children’s applications for asylum and for them all to be reviewed as a matter of urgency. Her call has been made following a visit to the camp to meet with and hear from children who live there alone for up to nine months whilst waiting for their cases to be reviewed by the French authorities. Whilst in the camp, the children have been exposed to trafficking, violence, abuse and illness. A number have tried to make the dangerous journey to England by illegally boarding trucks because of conditions in the camp and frustration with the length of time it has taken to process them.
Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England said:
“I have asked the French authorities to urgently determine which of the children in the Calais refugee camp are eligible to come to the UK, to ensure their safety and to process their applications immediately. It is unacceptable that at the moment some are waiting up to nine months before they learn whether or not they can come. The camp is an incredibly dangerous place for an unaccompanied child.
“I have been told that around 129 children have gone missing from the original camp since it was dismantled by the French authorities in February. The charities working with them have tried hard to trace them and the authorities must do likewise. We expect authorities in the UK to make sure vulnerable children in England are looked after and we expect nothing less of the French Government.”