13th October 2016

Countdown to Calais camp closure: clock is ticking to protect children

With just a short time remaining until the predicted clearing of the Calais refugee camp, robust plans to protect hundreds of children living there are still needed.

Today, Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield and Commissioners from France and Belgium visited the camp and met charities working with children there to get the latest information. The Commissioner for England urged a unified and coordinated action from the French authorities to protect children in the camp.

Around 1,200 unaccompanied children are living in the camp, with up to 300 thought to be eligible to come to the UK under Dublin III and the ‘Dubs’ Amendment.

The Children’s Commissioner for England welcomed news that the UK Government is close to a deal with French authorities to secure the transfer of hundreds of children.

The French Government has said people in the camp will be taken to reception centres across France. The last time a section of the camp was demolished around 130 lone asylum-seeking children went missing as a result of the operation. It is critical that the safety of children and young people at the camp is secured before the clearance begins.

On Tuesday, Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England met representatives of the European Commission in Brussels, as well as the French Commissioner, members of the European Parliament and other senior EU officials. She called for urgent action by the EU and French authorities to ensure that all lone asylum seeking children in Calais and children on the move are accommodated ahead of the closure and protected from harm.

The action necessary to ensure children are protected includes ensuring that:

1. All unaccompanied children in camp are accommodated

2. Children with rights to come to the UK are given a place in specialist centres

3. Clear plans put in place for all children after camp closure.

The Children’s Commissioner for England recently took her French counterpart, Geneviève Avenard, to a facility in Kent which is dedicated to receiving traumatised asylum seeking children when they are identified by UK authorities. She has recommended that all unaccompanied children in Calais are similarly registered and processed by the authorities so they can be moved to appropriate accommodation in France.

Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England, said: “I support the closure of the Calais camp, which is no place for children. It is unsanitary, highly dangerous and leaves young people exposed to traffickers.

“But with clearance imminent, I want to see robust plans in place to ensure children are protected.

“The French Government must urgently safeguard these children and get them into specialist centres where they can begin to recover from their ordeals and have asylum applications properly processed and those with rights to come to the UK be brought here safely.”

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