UK to take small group of children from Calais refugee camp

French officials say Britain has agreed no ‘deal for larger-scale plan’ but will accept 20 unaccompanied minors this week

A group of around 10 unaccompanied refugee children are expected to leave France for the the UK on Monday as part of the Home Office’s attempt to relocate children from the refugee camp in Calais before it is demolished.

The 10 children follow an advance party of five – four Syrians and one Afghan – who arrived over the weekend. According to French authorities they will be followed by a further group of around 10 on Tuesday, all of whom qualify for relocation under the Dublin Regulation because they have family living in the UK.

Local government officials in Calais told AFP there was “no deal for a larger-scale plan” for the UK to take more.

The Home Office said that after a meeting between the home secretary, Amber Rudd, and the French interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, it had sent a team to Calais to help identify children who qualified. Cazeneuve said he was asking “Britain to assume its moral duty”.

At least 187 children in Calais have been identified by the Red Cross as being eligible under the Dublin rules. However, the Home Office has been accused of dragging its feet over processing their cases. In the first nine months of 2016, just 140 children were brought to the UK under the Dublin rules, 80 of them from France.

The UK has also made a wider commitment to taking in unaccompanied migrant children under the Dubs amendment passed in the House of Lords this year.

The Home Office said it would send a second group of staff to France to help identify and prioritise children to be brought to the UK under the amendment.

It was originally expected that the amendment – which was introduced by Lord Dubs, who came to the UK from Nazi Germany as a child on the Kindertransport – would see around 3,000 children given a home in the UK. However, Rudd said last week that it would be a “good result” if the UK ended up taking around 300 unaccompanied children from the camp in Calais.

The Calais camp – a dirty and unsafe collection of makeshift shelters – is home to around 10,000 people, with official estimates suggesting there are between 600 and 900 unaccompanied minors. The French were originally planning to begin demolishing the camp as early as Tuesday, but the plans have been postponed for at least a week.

“As the home secretary told the House of Commons on Monday, our priority must be to ensure the safety and security of the children in the Calais camp,” said a Home Office spokesman.

“When she met the French interior minister she made it crystal clear that we intend to transfer as many minors as possible who qualify for transfer to the UK to claim asylum on the basis of close family in the UK under the Dublin Regulation, before the start of the clearance.

“In addition, children who are eligible to come to the UK under the Dubs amendment to the Immigration Act 2016 must be looked after in safe facilities where their best interests are properly considered. Work is continuing on both sides of the Channel to ensure this happens as a matter of urgency.”


Jasper Jackson and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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