Un­cer­tainty for re­main­ing Calais kids over UK trans­fers

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

France on Tues­day de­nied re­ports that Bri­tain has stopped tak­ing in mi­grant chil­dren re­lo­cated from Calais, say­ing Lon­don has taken in over 450 mi­nors since the “Jun­gle” camp was razed and that the trans­fers were “go­ing well”.

The French in­te­rior min­istry said Bri­tain had ac­cepted 866 un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nors since the start of 2016, 468 of whom were whisked across the Chan­nel af­ter the sprawl­ing Jun­gle was de­mol­ished in late October. “The co­op­er­a­tion is go­ing well,” the min­istry said, deny­ing re­ports that Bri­tain had pulled up the draw­bridge on chil­dren who had trav­elled to Calais in the hope of reach­ing Eng­land.

French au­thor­i­ties in October cleared the squalid camp near Calais port and moved the thou­sands of mi­grants-mostly Afghans, Eritre­ans and Su­danese-who had been liv­ing there to shel­ters na­tion­wide. They in­cluded around 1,900 mi­nors. Bri­tain, which had al­ready be­gun tak­ing some of the chil­dren, as­sured at the time it would take hundreds more, with­out com­mit­ting to an ex­act figure. Last week, Bri­tish immigration min­is­ter Robert Good­will said his gov­ern­ment had wel­comed over 750 chil­dren-a figure lower than that given by the French.

A spokes­woman for Bri­tain’s Home Of­fice in­te­rior min­istry told AFP Tues­day the trans­fer of Calais chil­dren was “con­tin­u­ing” but de­clined to say how many would be ad­mit­ted. “The first phase of trans­fers has con­cluded but that is not the end of the process. More el­i­gi­ble chil­dren will be trans­ferred from across Europe in the com­ing months,” she said. Of those chil­dren given shel­ter so far, “many” had joined fam­ily mem­bers, she said.

Last month, Bri­tain tight­ened the ad­mis­sion cri­te­ria for un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­grant chil­dren with­out fam­ily in Bri­tain, say­ing the child must be 12 or un­der, or run a high risk of sex­ual ex­ploita­tion.

The thresh­old for Syr­ian and Su­danese chil­dren was lower, with chil­dren of up to 15 years de­clared el­i­gi­ble. A spokes­woman for Safe Pas­sage, a char­ity that sup­ports refugees com­ing to Bri­tain, said: “Our un­der­stand­ing is that the trans­fers have stopped at 750.”

Al­though the gov­ern­ment said the trans­fers are on­go­ing, these are on a “child-by-child” ba­sis, the spokes­woman said, with each case po­ten­tially tak­ing “months” to process. Be­fore the Jun­gle was cleared, French Pres­i­dent Francois Hol­lande had ap­pealed to Bri­tain to ful­fill its “moral duty” to­wards mi­grants try­ing to reach Bri­tain, where many have con­tacts or speak the lan­guage.

Dozens of mi­grants have died try­ing to climb onto trucks head­ing to Calais port to cross to Eng­land. French char­i­ties have warned that a clo­sure of Bri­tain’s asy­lum chan­nels could see chil­dren once again put their lives on the line.

Genevieve Jac­ques, head of the mi­grant char­ity Ci­made, said she feared they would run away from the mi­grant shel­ters back to Calais and called on France to “take a tougher tone” with Bri­tain. France and Bri­tain have tried to make the Calais site less at­trac­tive for mi­grants, erect­ing a wall that of­fi­cials said late Mon­day had been com­pleted.

The four-meter-high (13-foot) wall runs along a kilo­me­ter-long stretch of the main road lead­ing to Calais port, next to the area that used to house the sprawl­ing camp. The con­crete bar­ri­er­es­ti­mated to cost 2.7 mil­lion Eu­ros ($3 mil­lion) — aims to pre­vent new ar­rivals stow­ing away on trucks bound for Bri­tain. — AFP

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