Britain set to take Calais ‘jungle’ children


Officials from the Home Office are spending the coming week at the ‘jungle’ migrant camp in Calais attempting to identify unaccompanied minors who are eligible to come to the UK.

After months of delay and confusion, the Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced last week that she wanted to see as many children as possible brought to the UK before the camp closes.

The French authorities were due to begin the dismantling of the settlement this week but have now delayed the process, in part to allow for the UK to extract eligible minors.

Under EU legislation, any asylum seeker who is under 18, unaccompanied and who has a parent, sibling or grandparent in the UK is entitled to be reunited with their family.

Under separate new UK legislation, known as the Dubbs Amendment, the British government has also pledged to take in some unaccompanied minors who do not have relations in the UK.

The challenge for Home Office officials now is to identify eligible minors – a process fraught with complications.

Most of the minors are not young children but teenagers: 15, 16 and 17-year-olds, many without passports or other ID.

Proving their age, their claim to be travelling alone and the existence of their relatives in the UK is extremely hard.

The charity Safe Passage has been working to try to compile a database of the minors for several months. The process is hard because none of the jungle residents are registered and the population is transient.

In July, Safe Passage gave the Home Office a list of 178 minors who all claimed to have family in UK.

None of them were transferred to Britain and the charity says it has now lost track of 18 of them.

Estimates of the current jungle population vary widely – from 6,000 to more than 10,000.

According to the French charity Terre d’Asile, there are 1,290 unaccompanied minors living in the camp.