Over the last few months supporters of CFID have become growing increasingly concerned for the fate of the hundreds of unaccompanied and separated children in Calais, who faced grave dangers of violence and exploitation. We therefore welcomed the recent news from the Home Secretary Amber Rudd last week when she announced that all the children of Calais with family links in the UK will be brought here. Further, those unaccompanied children without family, but who would benefit from UK protection, would be prioritised and brought here in the days following.
It is good news that several youngsters have already left the port in northern France this morning. They were pictured arriving at the head office of UK Visas and Immigration at Lunar House in Croydon, south London, to register with the Home Office and are set to be reunited with relatives who are already in Britain.
Dozens more children are expected to arrive this week after a team of British officials was sent to Calais to help French authorities speed up the transfer of minors ahead of the dismantling of the Jungle.
Several CFID members including our Founder Baroness Jenkin and Patron Lady Hodgson, visited the refugee camp in Calais at the end of July. The trip was facilitated by Citizens UK and they visited the Jungle and met with several children there.
Following this visit, Baroness Jenkin spoke in a related refugee camp debate in September in the House of Lords with Lord Dubs, “we were shocked by what we saw and heard: children afraid to leave their tents during the day, in case everything they had was taken from them, while every night they risk their lives in trying to enter the UK illegally”.
Baroness Jenkin, who is also a Trustee of Unicef, said of the recent news that , “this is a great outcome for the campaign to reunite unaccompanied refugee children from Calais with their families here in the UK. Those of us who visited the camp in the summer saw for ourselves the conditions these young people are living in. We are all delighted that the process for those who have family here and qualify under Dublin 3 will be arriving here in the near future”.
CFID is pleased that this important campaign has been heard and acted on by the Government. It became clear that hundreds of the children there were in Calais because they were trying to reach a family member in the UK – something they had a legal right to – yet because the bureaucracy wasn’t working, they were stuck, and instead of being brought to the UK through safe and legal routes, they were risking their lives by trying to stow away in lorries, jumping on trains, or falling prey to traffickers – some even died in the process.
For many months children have lived in appalling conditions in the Calais camp, exposed to abuse, exploitation and road accidents while awaiting their uncertain fate. With the imminent clearance of the Calais camp and wet winter weather fast approaching, it is good news indeed that many of the children will be given a new home and new hope in the UK in the days to come. We welcome also the commitment in France, to find solutions for the other refugee and migrant children who will remain in France. This too is long overdue.
There is much more work to do of course – many thousands of vulnerable refugee children are still at great risk at this very moment – but this positive result shows us just what we can achieve for children through our advocacy when we work on the right issues, in the right way.