What is happening to the children who have been in the Calais Camp, now the camp is cleared ?
They have been taken to around 160 centres around France, being told that they would be properly assessed to be able to come to the UK. They complied with the move, surprising the authorities that there was no violence, in the hope that they were finally going to be at the end of their long, traumatic, and dangerous journey, enduring horrors and conditions that none of us would want our children to have to go through.
However over the last few weeks, children are telling charities on the ground that they still have not seen a Home Office official since they arrived at their centre. Others report their friends have already run away having lost hope, and all are deeply anxious. They don’t know what their future is, and many have nothing at all to do, there are no activities, and they just sit. Children leaving the centres will be at risk of exploitation and vulnerable to traffickers. We know many are already unaccounted for in Europe.
This week the Government has slipped out its guidance on which children it will take from the now demolished Calais Camp.
In brief, the Home Office Ministers are saying that under the Dubs amendment, they will take no 16 and 17 year old’s. They will only take 13 to 15 year old’s if they are from Syria or Sudan. This is on the basis that asylum seekers from these 2 countries will have the best chance of success. Ignoring the fact that, for instance, 89% of Eritreans are granted leave to remain.
This led to an angry row in Parliament, led by Lib Dem Tom Brake MP, as he challenged the Minister on the chaotic demolition of the Calais camp. He reminded him that “In the days running up to the demolition, the Home Secretary made statements that pointed to the UK offering a home for up to half of the children in the camp. It is unclear how that will be achieved given the criteria in the guidance document, so I hope that in answering my questions the Government will be able to explain how that will be done.” He ended his speech with “This House agreed to the Dubs amendment and our Government must now set out how they are going to honour its letter and spirit.”
You can see the debate here, or read the Hansard account, and listen to other MPs telling the Immigration Minister that the Government was betraying the spirit in which the Dubs amendment was debated and passed.
In the House of Lords, Baroness Shas Sheehan expressed her shock about the new guidance “It will come as a bitter disappointment to all those voluntary organisations that have worked so hard with children, during the demolition of the camp in Calais, to keep them in the system and stop them absconding and going missing.”
Charities have hit out at the Home Office too . Representatives from Citizens UK, Calais Action, Refugee Action and Help Refugees say the government is breaking its promises.
Bishop Peter Hill, Citizens UK leader, said: “Citizens UK’s safe passage team estimates that 40% of children in the Calais camp at the time of the demolition were Eritrean or Afghan.”
Stephen Hale, chief executive of Refugee Action, said: “We’re frankly appalled that the government appears to be backtracking on its commitment to protect unaccompanied child refugees from Calais. The government must amend this guidance and meet its responsibility to all unaccompanied child refugees, regardless of their nationality.”
Josie Naughton, co-founder of Help Refugees, added: “The release of these criteria only continues to penalise some of the most vulnerable unaccompanied children in the crisis. As a result children as young as 13 are just as at risk as they ever were. An Afghan child of this age is no less deserving of safeguarding than a Syrian one.
“We have equal responsibility to them all.”
What can you do ?
It is important that as many of you reading this as possible write to the home secretary Amber Rudd and the Home Office demanding that it immediately amends guidance on “s67 of the Immigration Act 2016” so that it does not discriminate by age or nationality.
During the demolition the Home Secretary said that she thought it would be a good result if the UK ultimately took in ‘half’ of the children in the camp. At the time, it was thought the total number was perhaps 1200, however we now know that figure was closer to 2000. As many as possible need to be taken right now, a sizeable number before Christmas and promises to be kept of 1,000 to be taken overall.
This briefing from Sanctuary Seekers gives a lot of facts needed.
We need pressure on every single MP to help us hold Amber Rudd to this promise! Contact your own MP, encourage others to too, and contact Amber Rudd on
Amber.firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org;
Also the Ministers who were questioned about this in Parliament last week: Robert Goodwill (email@example.com) and Baroness Williams of Stafford (firstname.lastname@example.org)