Following its closure of the Calais refugee camp, known as “The Jungle,” this week, the French government must protect the rights of all asylum-seekers and migrants who had been living there, including unaccompanied children. By some estimates, between 6,000 and 8,000 people (including over 1,000 unaccompanied children) had been living in the camp in unsanitary conditions. Most were hoping to travel to the United Kingdom, their destination of choice. Over the past few days, workers destroyed hundreds of makeshift shelters, delayed only by the multiple fires that burned for hours inside the camp. In the midst of these chaotic events, dozens of unaccompanied children were left without shelter and their protection and futures are far from clear.
According to figures published by the French government, as of October 26, 4,457 adults had been transferred out of Calais and into reception centers across the country, where they can apply for asylum in France. The French Ministry of Interior announced today that 1451 children had been provided with shelters in a temporary reception center in Calais and elsewhere, and that the United Kingdom (UK) had accepted to transfer 274 unaccompanied children from Calais to the UK.
"France should not return anyone to a country where they would be at risk of torture or other ill-treatment...(and) should pay particular attention to and address the needs of the unaccompanied children... "
As these events unfold, Refugees International calls on the French government to provide people with all relevant information about their rights and options in France, process asylum claims fairly and provide all asylum-seekers with adequate accommodation during the process. Regardless of whether they qualify for international protection, France should not return anyone to a country where they would be at risk of torture or other ill-treatment, in line with its obligations under European and international law. The French government should pay particular attention to and address the needs of the unaccompanied children who are still in Calais and prioritize their safety and shelter. The United Kingdom should enable the transfer unaccompanied children with family ties there. The UK should also offer protection to unaccompanied children, regardless of family ties, under a legal provision known as the “Dubs Amendment,” which allows for the relocation of unaccompanied children to the UK from elsewhere in Europe.