Sunday

3rd Mar 2024

Calais children abandoned at former camp site

  • Many children remain, even after much of the Calais camp was cleared. (Photo: Eszter Zalan)

Scores of children have been left out in the cold, after French authorities flattened the make-shift migrants camp in Calais, in northern France, earlier this week.

Journalists report that around a hundred children were sleeping rough on the remains of the camp, among burned-out shacks and riot police.

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The Guardian spoke to children who had been lured off the camp site, with promises of being transferred to reception centres where their asylum claims would be assessed. Instead, riot police cornered the group while bulldozers razed the camp.

Media and NGO reports of the children's treatment triggered protests of British home secretary Amber Rudd, who told her French counterpart, Bernard Cazeneuve, on Thursday, that children remaining in Calais had to be properly protected.

Cazeneuve later issued a statement saying he was surprised by Rudd’s declaration. He said France had given shelter to 1,451 minors since 17 October recalling that Britain had a legal duty to take those children that have a link to the UK, for instance through family.

274 children have been allowed to travel to the UK in the last two weeks.

The decision to clear the camp came from French president Francois Hollande, calling it a ”humanitarian emergency” during a visit in September.

French authorities started evacuating the camp, also known as the Jungle, on Monday (24 October) and said they had relocated almost all of the 6,000 people estimated to have been living there to other parts of France .

Fabienne Buccio, prefect of the Pas-de-Calais region, on Wednesday declared the operation "mission accomplished”.

She says those who remain in Calais had arrived there in the last days from other parts of France and weren't included in the original resettlement plans.

Aid groups say local authorities are not registering any new arrivals for relocation.

British baroness Shas Sheehan, who has been working as a volunteer teacher in the camp prior to its dismantlement, accused France and the UK of human rights violations, pointing to official assurances by both sides that the site wouldn’t be demolished before all the children were safeguarded.

Sheehan convinced French police to let a group of more than 70 teenagers and adults back into the camp, where they took shelter for the night in an abandoned, unheated building.

This article was independently created by EUobserver's editorial staff and is part of a series about unaccompanied migrant children. Costs for producing this article was funded in part by the Destination Unknown initiative.

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