Tory MPs urge Amber Rudd to do more to help child refugees in Calais

Ten MPs write to home secretary calling for safe accommodation to be found for lone children living in ‘wretched’ conditions

A group of 10 Conservative MPs has written to the home secretary, Amber Rudd, calling on her to do more to help vulnerable unaccompanied child asylum seekers living in “wretched” and life-threatening conditions in Calais.

The letter – signed by the former education secretary Nicky Morgan, and the acting head of the home affairs select committee, Tim Loughton – highlights the recent death of a 14-year-old Afghan boy on the roads near the French port. He died when he fell off a moving truck while trying to get to the UK.

The letter points out that the child had a legal right to be reunited with his brother, who lives in the UK, “but having waited for months in wretched conditions for the process to work, he took fate into his own hands with devastating consequences”.

“We are sure you feel as heartbroken as we do about this and the conditions in the camp he was trying to escape. Children are living alone in tents donated by the generous British people, living each day in fear of violence, exposed to criminals and, as we have seen, at risk of losing their lives. With the French authorities planning to dismantle the camp, life is only likely to get harder for these vulnerable children,” the MPs state.

The letter says it is vital that the Home Office works with French authorities in the run-up to the planned demolition of the site later this month, to find safe accommodation for the estimated 865 children living in the camp (nearly 80% of whom are there alone), and to make sure that those eligible to come to the UK understand their rights.

Charities working in Calais estimate that as many as 400 children have family in the UK, and are eligible to be resettled in Britain. “We must ensure that it is the authorities and the law that help these children, and not the criminals who would put them in the back of trucks,” adds the letter, which is also signed by David Burrowes, Anne Jenkin and Sarah Wollaston.

It adds to a growing chorus of voices demanding the government do more to assist children in the camp. Unicef this weekend called on the British authorities to speed up the transfer of unaccompanied child refugees from Calais. Last month, Kevin Hyland, the UK’s anti-slavery commissioner who was appointed by Theresa May, said British delays in giving sanctuary to these children were forcing them into the hands of traffickers and people smugglers.

Lord Dubs, the Labour peer who earlier this year persuaded the government to promise to give sanctuary to vulnerable unaccompanied child refugees with no relatives in the UK, has described the slowness of the British response to the crisis as a “disgrace”.

In May, he secured a commitment that Britain would give homes to some of the estimated 88,000 child refugees believed to be travelling through Europe, and this was set out in an amendment to the Immigration Act. Five months since the amendment was passed, none of the qualifying children has arrived in the UK.

The Home Office said: “The dismantling of the camp in Calais is a matter for the French government.

“The UK government has made crystal clear its commitment to resettle vulnerable children under the Immigration Act and ensure those with links to the UK are brought here using the Dublin regulation. We will also continue to support the French government as it provides alternative accommodation to migrants in the camps and returns those not in need of protection to their home countries.

“We continue to work with the French government and partner organisations to speed up mechanisms to identify, assess and transfer unaccompanied refugee children to the UK, where this is in their best interests.”


Amelia Gentleman

The GuardianTramp

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