Race to trans­fer ‘Jun­gle’ chil­dren

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

CALAIS: With only hours to go be­fore work­ers be­gin to de­mol­ish France’s “Jun­gle” mi­grant camp to­day, of­fi­cials are rac­ing to process as many young peo­ple as pos­si­ble to be trans­ferred to Bri­tain. The pace is there­fore brisk at the camp out­side Calais: Young migrants are shown into a con­tainer where Bri­tish Home Of­fice of­fi­cials have set up shop, have their photo quickly taken, and then un­dergo a short in­ter­view to de­cide their fate.

“We have con­ducted 600 in­ter­views in all, and this week 194 mi­nors will have left Calais for Bri­tain,” said Pierre Henry, the head of France Terre D’Asile (FTDA), a char­ity in­volved in help­ing process the chil­dren on be­half of the French gov­ern­ment. The aim is to deal with as many cases as they can, out of the around 1,300 mi­nors iden­ti­fied in the camp, in­clud­ing 500 with links to Bri­tainand then to con­vince London to ac­cept as many as pos­si­ble. It is un­clear how many Bri­tain will take. “An aim of 600 trans­fers at least was given,” said an of­fi­cial fa­mil­iar with the talks. The is­sue is sen­si­tive. A French of­fi­cial source de­scribed the ne­go­ti­a­tions with London as “very tough” and said: “We would like to go fur­ther.” Only 70 chil­dren were trans­ferred be­tween the start of the year and early Oc­to­ber, be­fore plans to tear down the camp swung into high gear. Bri­tain was ac­cused of drag­ging its feet but France too was ac­cused of hold­ing up the process, by fail­ing to present enough cases for con­sid­er­a­tion.

En­larged fam­ily

As the demolition date loomed, the pace had to be stepped up: a list of mi­nors was pre­sented to Bri­tain, who dis­patched 17 of­fi­cials from the Home Of­fice to help carry out in­ter­views, along­side around a dozen staff from France Terre d’Asile and sup­port from the UN refugee agency the UNHCR. In the packed con­tainer, ado­les­cents are in­vited to give more de­tails-in lan­guages in­clud­ing Ara­bic and Pashto-about their iden­tity and what fam­ily ties they have in Bri­tain.

In many cases, the rel­a­tives are un­cles or cousins. “It is rare that they have a mother or fa­ther there,” said Henry. “I don’t have a fam­ily, I’ve crossed Europe on my own,” said Ma­harawi, a slen­der 17-year-old Afghan wait­ing in line Satur­day with his friend An­war, who has a brother in Bri­tain. “I gave his tele­phone num­ber, they are go­ing to call him. After that I hope to leave,” he said. It is up to the Bri­tish to de­cide whether they are in­deed mi­nors, what their fam­ily ties are and if they should be trans­ferred un­der an EU law known as the Dublin Reg­u­la­tion for asy­lum seek­ers. “If we can take all the mi­nors who have the right un­der the Dublin pro­ce­dure, we will do so,” said a diplo­matic source.

Vul­ner­a­ble

But what hap­pens to chil­dren with no fam­ily ties? This is where the mat­ter be­come com­pli­cated. For them one op­tion is to ap­ply un­der a Bri­tish leg­isla­tive amend­ment that al­lows a limited num­ber of vul­ner­a­ble child refugees into the coun­try, even if they do not have fam­ily in Bri­tain. The so-called Dubs amend­ment passed in May was tabled by Al­fred Dubs, an 83-year-old mem­ber of Bri­tain’s House of Lords who ar­gued that the coun­try should be more com­pas­sion­ate, cit­ing his own story of flee­ing the Nazis as a child in 1939. But de­cid­ing who is most vul­ner­a­ble is tricky.

“It’s more com­pli­cated be­cause you have to de­ter­mine if the child can meet the cri­te­ria for a refugee,” said a diplo­matic source. On Satur­day, 53 girls were among the first “Dubs kids” to enter Bri­tain un­der the amend­ment, Henry of France Terre d’Asile said. The French are hop­ing more will fol­low. “The Bri­tish have to move on Dubs,” a French of­fi­cial said. Mi­nors who were passed over this week will see their chances of be­ing ad­mit­ted legally to Bri­tain dwin­dle once the Jun­gle is razed-a ma­jor op­er­a­tion start­ing to­day. — AFP

CALAIS: Mem­bers of the “Di­rec­tion de­parte­men­tale de la co­he­sion so­ciale” (DDCS) (De­part­ment for so­cial co­he­sion and pro­tec­tion of the pop­u­la­tions) give to migrants doc­u­ments in­form­ing on the camp’s demolition, at the tem­po­rary re­cep­tion cen­tre (CAP) in the “Jun­gle” mi­grant camp. — AFP

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