Child migrants sent to be processed
French authorities began bussing underage migrants out of Calais to processing centres around France yesterday, as the government tries to bring a definitive end to the notorious migrant camp in the city.
Three buses carried a group of boys, mainly teenagers, out of the camp in the morning.
Authorities hoped to have moved out all 1,500 unaccompanied child migrants from Calais by the end of the day in some 30 buses, according to the regional administration.
French authorities transferred more than 5,000 adult migrants out of Calais last week, but the fate of its children had remained unclear. Migrants from the Middle East and Africa had converged on the camp over the past 18 months in hopes of crossing to Britain. The filthy, lawless site, which migrants refer to as “the jungle”, had become a symbol of Europe’s migrant crisis and a source of shame for France.
The child migrants will be taken to 60 dedicated centres scattered around France, where British officials will study whether they have the right to UK asylum, according to French and British authorities. The others will be put under the care of French child welfare services.
The operation has rekindled tensions among the youths and fears that it means the end of their dream of reaching Britain.
Four people were injured when clashes broke out on Tuesday night between Afghan and Eritrean migrants in the camp, the administration said. Police used tear gas to separate them, and strengthened security at the site overnight.
Representatives of the British Home Office were in Calais yesterday to explain to the children what will happen next.
Britain’s government says it has taken in more than 300 unaccompanied minors from Calais, and UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd told Parliament last week that several hundred more would be brought in soon.
But details remain unclear. The issue is complicated by Britain’s vote to leave the EU, which highlighted the public’s unease with immigration.
Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill: “We are absolutely committed to safeguarding and protecting children in Calais.”