Tuesday 12 December 2017

More than 1,600 child migrants moved out of Calais camp

French authorities transferred more than 5,000 adult migrants out of Calais last week as the camp was demolished
French authorities transferred more than 5,000 adult migrants out of Calais last week as the camp was demolished

French authorities have moved all unaccompanied children - 1,616 of them - out of Calais' sprawling migrant slum, taking them to special processing centres in one of the final steps to empty the notorious "Jungle" camp.

The underage migrants climbed into to 38 buses in a day-long operation that began just under a week after adult migrants were cleared out of the camp and sent to refugee centres around France.

In the government's final move, women and their children - slightly more than 300 people - in the Calais camp were to be transported to family centres on Thursday.

"Then there will be no one at the end of the day," said Steve Barbet, spokesman for the Pas-de-Calais region.

Last week's operation to evacuate and demolish the makeshift camp - whose population soared to more than 10,000 two months ago, aid groups said - was a mammoth logistical task rushed to completion after fires engulfed large swaths of the slum. Clean-up crews finished pulling down shelters on Tuesday.

Two agents from the Home Office travelled on each bus, said Mr Barbet. They will study files of the underage migrants, who often have family members in the UK, to see who might qualify for transfer to Britain.

Since October 17, Britain has taken in slightly more than 300 Calais migrants. France is pressing Britain to do more.

Most of the youths lined up calmly to board the buses, though one grabbed on to a fence, begging British officials to take him to the UK.

Migrants from the Mideast and Africa had converged on the Calais camp over the past 18 months. The site had become a symbol of Europe's migrant crisis and a source of shame for France.

The child migrants were taken to 60 dedicated centres scattered around France until British officials decide their cases. Those refused access to Britain will be put under the care of French child welfare services.

The operation rekindled tensions among some youths, who feared it means the end of their dream of reaching Britain.

"They are saying 'you are young, we can help you'. But they are not helping me," Carlos Osma, a 16-year-old from Sudan, said before boarding a bus.

Four people were injured when clashes broke out Tuesday night between Afghan and Eritrean migrants in the camp, and police used tear gas to separate them.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd told Parliament last week that several hundred more child migrants would be brought in soon.

"We are absolutely committed to safeguarding and protecting children in Calais and have been working very closely with the French to ensure the camp is cleared as safely as possible," Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill said on Wednesday.


Press Association

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