Calais camp charities attack UK and France over unaccompanied children

Governments accused of letting charities fill void created by lack of state support in providing meals for under-18s on site

Anger is growing among aid workers in the Calais refugee camp over the welfare of the 1,500 unaccompanied children remaining on the site in a secure area of converted shipping containers.

They say the French and British authorities are leaving it to charities to fill a void created by the lack of state support.

Calais Action, one of the many volunteer groups which has been operating on the site in the absence of official support, said there were at least 14 children left on the site on Friday night with nowhere to go. They had failed to get on the last buses laid on for unaccompanied minors for onward transport to reception centres across France.

“Once again it has been left to many hardworking volunteer groups to find them accommodation,” said Calais Action on its Facebook page.

Charities have continued to provide hot meals for the minors, even those in the container camp, which is state-run.

Where next? The last days of the Calais refugee camp

Unaccompanied children who were registered as being in the camp were moved by French authorities into a fenced-off area with converted shipping containers. They had been used to house families who were moved out this week before the demolition of the camp began on Tuesday.

The fenced-off area contains about 1,500 unaccompanied teenagers and children – some as young as eight. Because the facility was full, about 120 of them slept rough for two nights.

Authorities bowed to international pressure and took 113 of the unaccompanied minors to reception centres in Brittany on Friday.

Calais Action said: “For a sovereign state to leave their responsibilities to groups of volunteers is not acceptable. Practically speaking, this state of affairs is also not sustainable long-term – infrastructure has been destroyed by the state, and volunteers are literally operating from the pavement. Legally, minors in the camp are the responsibility of the French government.”

There was also anger that the police moved so swiftly to demolish the makeshift school where 60 unaccompanied minors were forced to sleep rough on Thursday night after the authorities had failed to provide shelter, claiming the site had been cleared of migrants.

It transpired early on Friday morning that as many as 111 unaccompanied minors of 17 years or under remained on site with no shelter. Many were stranded after the French closed down the registration process for migrants, underestimating the numbers in the camp.

It is feared that French authorities plan to move the unaccompanied minors already registered from the container camps this week, dispersing them around the country.


Lisa O'Carroll in Calais

The GuardianTramp

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