In Depth

Refugee crisis: Calais Jungle children 'have nowhere to sleep'

Around 100 youngsters left in refugee camp after French demolition crews tear down tents and shelters

Aid workers say around 100 children have been left with nowhere to sleep after French authorities closed down the Jungle refugee camp in Calais.

According to the BBC, several hundred people remain inside the camp, despite officials claiming it is empty.

France says nearly 5,600 refugees have been moved to reception centres this week, including around 1,500 unaccompanied minors who were being housed in an on-site container camp.

The children are said to be becoming increasingly desperate. "We were begging the French authorities to actually do something about the refugee children and nothing was done," Caroline Gregory of Calais Action said.

Demolition crews continued to clear tents and shelters yesterday, despite departing refugees reportedly starting fires in the site.

Fabienne Buccio, the prefect of Pas-de-Calais, said it was "mission accomplished".

"It's the end of the Jungle; our mission is over. There are no more migrants in the camp," he added.

However, Sky News reports authorities told the refugees they could return after the fires were put out to recover their belongings. 

"Jungle's not dead. Jungle's not dead," shouted one Afghani making his way back into the camp.

The Jungle has become a potent symbol of Europe's refugee crisis, with its residents said to be desperate to reach the UK. Many have attempted to hide themselves in cargo vehicles entering the Channel Tunnel.

A refugee agency said the final population ahead of the camp's demolition was 8,143.

France busses 2,000 refugees from Calais Jungle

25 October

French officials have begun the task of clearing the sprawling Jungle refugee camp in Calais, where thousands of people have been living in squalid conditions.

A total of 1,918 asylum seekers, including 300 children, have been processed for relocation and bussed to various regions throughout France, where they will be able to claim asylum. If their application fails, they will be deported.

"It's going well," regional prefect Fabienne Buccio said. "We knew this morning that there would be a lot of people, and that's what's happening.

"We had a particular concern for the minors, paid them particular attention, but it went well."

So far, almost 200 children have been brought to the UK, including "60 girls who were at high risk of sexual exploitation", the BBC says.

Despite some unrest at the weekend, officials say the process has been largely peaceful. However, Fabrice Durieux from the charity Salam said the start of demolition work could be a flashpoint.

"There's a risk tensions increase in the week because at some point the bulldozers are going to have to come in," he said.

Others have warned that the migrants and refugees who remain determined to enter the UK will scatter into the countryside around Calais, and regroup to form another camp once the Jungle has been dismantled.

"The idea of dispersing these refugees has been tried before," Care4Calais founder Clare Moseley told The Independent. "They said that was going to be a deterrent, but of course it wasn't."

Calais Jungle camp clearance begins amid fears for refugee children

24 October

Violence broke out last night at the Jungle migrant camp in Calais, as bulldozers stood by to begin its long-awaited demolition. The evacuation and clearance has begun, with demolition expected to begin tomorrow.

"Police clashed with migrants and fired tear gas into the crowds," says The Times. British anarchists have vowed to "fight the police" in Calais to hold up the camp's destruction, and "several dozen are already inside the camp, having infiltrated it in the past week", the paper reports.

Jungle clearance

About 10,000 leaflets have been handed out to migrants by French authorities, informing people about plans for the clearance. Belgium's interior minister Jan Jambon has ordered additional police resources to the border with France.

Roughly 6,000-7,000 people currently living in the camp have been told to report to reception points from where they will be taken to other refugee centres around France and given the opportunity to claim asylum.

However, the BBC says "there is concern some migrants will refuse to go because they still want to get to Britain".

Once the camp has been evacuated, heavy machinery and bulldozers will be sent to clear the tents and shelters that have been left behind. Closing the camp is expected to take a week.

The French interior ministry said it "does not want to use force but if there are migrants who refuse to leave, or NGOs who cause trouble, the police might be forced to intervene", the BBC reported.

Safety fears

The demolition comes despite British charities and MPs telling the French interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, they have "very serious worries" about the security and wellbeing of many of the thousands of people, including an estimated 1,300 unaccompanied children living in the camp.

"Once the demolition starts there are no second chances. If it results in a single child going missing, or forces them into the hands of smugglers and traffickers, then we will have failed them," said Unicef .

The Times says officials are now "racing against time to move the children", with British ministers believing about a third of unaccompanied minors living in the Jungle may be eligible to come to the UK.

On Saturday, more than 80 children, including 50 girls, arrived in Britain as part of the first significant group of children brought to the UK in a Home Office rescue plan.

British delays

The arrival of child refugees has been described as a chaotic last-minute "panic" because of a refusal by the government to make adequate preparations.

"There is growing anger that - despite all the refugees allowed into Britain last week having relatives in the UK - only a few have been settled with family members," says The Independent.

The newspaper understands that some have been placed in foster care "because the required background checks on family members have not been conducted", while others have been forced to stay at a controversial former immigration detention centre called Cedars, near Gatwick Airport.

Infographic by www.statista.com for TheWeek.co.uk.

Refugee crisis: Tory MP under fire for teeth test proposal

19 October

David Davies has come under fire for suggesting child refugees should have their teeth tested to verify their ages.

The Tory MP for Monmouth was among those to question the ages of a group of unaccompanied minors who entered the UK from Calais on Tuesday.

Home Office officials said the 14 refugees were all under the age of 17, but Davies said they appeared to be "hulking teenagers who look older than 18".

He suggested mandatory teeth checks were carried out on asylum-seekers to reassure the British people they were not being exploited.

"If they are jumping on lorries, they are not going to be averse to lying about their ages. We should do the tests," he said.

However, the British Dental Association (BDA) said it was "vigorously opposed" to the use of dental X-rays to determine whether asylum-seekers are under 18.

"It's not only an inaccurate method for assessing age, but it is both inappropriate and unethical to take radiographs of people when there is no health benefit for them," it said.

Doctors of the World UK told the BBC the idea was "unethical and unnecessary" and that "healthcare workers are not border guards".

Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, said Davies's call was an "outrageous demand" that would "further violate the human rights of vulnerable refugees".

Questions raised over age of refugee children coming to UK

18 October

Questions have been raised about the age of child refugees brought into the UK this week.

Fourteen refugees, said to be aged between 14 and 17, arrived from the Calais Jungle on Monday, but a number of Conservative MPs claimed photographs of the group suggested they were older.

The Home Office insisted it had "verified" their ages. However, documents from the department show that "if a refugee does not have a birth certificate, a Home Office screening officer can certify them as a child based on their 'physical appearance' or 'demeanour'", reports the Daily Telegraph.

David Davies, the Conservative MP for Monmouth, said: "These young men don't look like minors to me. They are hulking teenagers who look older than 18. I'm all for helping the genuine children but the well of goodwill is rapidly being exhausted here."

He added that he was also "curious that there are no young women".

The Home Office said the resettlement marked the "start of the process to transfer as many eligible children as possible" before the Calais Jungle site is dismantled.

Some of the families waiting to see their loved ones gave interviews before the reunion. Asif Khan, 25, who fled Afghanistan to come to the UK 11 years ago was waiting for his 14-year-old brother, Aimal, who had stayed behind. "I will just hug him because I haven't seen him since I left - I just miss him," he said.

Another Afghani, Jan Ghazi, 39, was waiting for his 16-year-old nephew, Haris. "I want to tell him that he is safe, that there are no bombs here and I want to help him go to school and become a lawyer or an engineer or whatever he wants. He is a smart child; I will do my best for him," he said.

How many unaccompanied children are in the Calais Jungle?

According to a visual survey carried out by officials in Calais last week, there are around 6,500 people in the Jungle, of whom 1,200 are unaccompanied children. However, these are estimates rather than firm figures as the refugees are not registered and the numbers are constantly changing, reports the BBC.

How many unaccompanied minors will come to the UK?

The Safe Passage UK charity has identified 387 children who are eligible to be resettled in the UK and has passed this list to the Home Office. However, Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said that taking 300 child refugees from Calais would be a "really good result".

Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, has accused the government of "foot-dragging" and wants to see up to 400 unaccompanied minors brought to the UK before the Calais site's imminent dismantling.

The Guardian describes the number of children who arrived in the UK yesterday as "infinitesimal" compared to the 88,000 child refugees "adrift in Europe". "All of the children so far rescued have come in under the provisions of the Dublin III agreement, which represents the absolute bare minimum that any government can do to recognise the humanity and human rights of refugees: children who have close family in this country may enter to be looked after by their relatives," says the newspaper. "This must be only a beginning."

Refugee crisis: France to close Jungle migrant camp 'by end of year'

26 September

Francois Hollande has vowed to demolish the "Jungle" migrant camp in Calais "by the end of the year" and told the UK it must "play its part" in resolving the refugee crisis.

Speaking during a visit to Calais, the French President said the camp would be "completely and utterly dismantled" and its 9,000 or so inhabitants, including an estimated 1,000 children, would be resettled to new "welcome centres" throughout France.

The plans "have sparked controversy and protests", says France 24, "with local residents in areas where new shelters could be established vehemently opposed to the move".

While many migrants have been offered the chance to apply for French nationality, some "would prefer to take their chances by stowing away on a boat or lorry to reach Britain", says The Guardian.

The fate of the camp and its inhabitants "has become central to France's presidential campaign", reports the BBC. The Daily Telegraph says "a growing chorus of opposition French politicians want to renegotiate a bilateral agreement whereby British border controls are conducted in France".

Last week, former president Nicolas Sarkozy, one of seven candidates seeking his party's nomination for the presidency, said: "Those who want to cross to England should be processed in England by the English."

Under pressure from a resurgent far-right National Front party, "Sarkozy has also vowed to speed up the expulsion of illegal migrants, strengthen border controls and tighten family reunification rules", says the Financial Times.

Hollande, meanwhile, has said he is determined the UK will support the humanitarian effort "until the end", saying: "Just because the United Kingdom has taken a sovereign decision does not absolve it of its obligations towards France."

Sky News reports Britain has already committed around £85m to reinforce security in the Calais region and is funding a new £1.9m wall being built along the main road to the port in an attempt to deter would-be stowaways.

Dover MP Charlie Elphicke told the Daily Mail that past promises to dismantle the camp had failed to materialise.

The French government "needed to make sure it actually happens this time and that the people they remove are stopped from just moving back to Calais", he said.

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