Celebrities join buddy scheme for unaccompanied Calais child refugees
Published 04/03/2016 | 08:11
Celebrities and public figures, including Jude Law, Benedict Cumberbatch and Dominic West, have pledged to sponsor lone child refugees in the Calais "Jungle" camp to help reunite them with relatives in the UK.
The well-known figures, who also include X-Files actress Gillian Anderson and broadcaster Mariella Frostrup, have signed up to a buddy system to personally help and support unaccompanied children.
The stars have pledged to visit them in Calais or their families in the UK, contribute towards their legal and humanitarian costs and speak out on their behalf.
Citizens UK estimates there are around 150 unaccompanied youngsters with a legal right to join their relatives in the UK languishing in the cold, muddy and rat-infested Calais camp.
French president Francois Hollande said on Thursday that unaccompanied child refugees in France who have a claim to seek asylum in Britain should be able to reach the UK quickly.
As bulldozers rolled into the camp and mass evictions began this week, volunteers fear lone children could become lost and scattered across northern France with no humanitarian protection.
George Gabriel, lead organiser at Citizens UK, said: "We're glad that the president and Prime Minister have finally acknowledged the urgency of this problem.
"That these desperate children cannot be left in the chaos of Calais and should instead be reunited with their loved ones as a matter of the utmost urgency."
The buddy scheme has been set up between Citizens UK, Help Refugees, Good Chance Calais and Letters Live.
Meanwhile, 40 Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith leaders delivered a joint statement to the French embassy in London calling on the British and French governments to help unaccompanied children in Calais.
Their statement said that the children "have a full legal right to reunite with their loved ones" in the UK, and said it was "unacceptable" that youngsters were left in danger and distress.