7 October 2016
Unaccompanied refugee children with family in the UK are being left to fend for themselves in the Calais ‘Jungle’ as a result of bureaucracy, according to a British Red Cross report released today.
The report, No Place for Children, found failures at almost every point in the process of reuniting unaccompanied refugee children with family in the UK under EU law known as Dublin III.
Of the estimated 1,000 unaccompanied children who are currently living in the Calais ‘Jungle’, 178 have been identified as having family ties to the UK, giving them the right to claim asylum in the same country.
However, it currently takes 10-11 months on average to bring a child to the UK under Dublin III, due to problems ranging from basic administrative errors causing severe delays to a shortage of staff required to facilitate transfers on the French side of the channel.
The delays are causing children to become disillusioned, frustrated and desperate – and many continue to attempt the journey to the UK illegally. At least three children who had a legal right to join family in the UK have died trying to make their own way as they waited for their cases to proceed.
In one case cited in the report, a 14-year-old Afghan boy made his way to the UK via the Eurotunnel after being asked to undergo DNA testing in order to join his older brother in the UK, which is illegal in France without a court order.
All the while, children as young as eight or nine are living in the ‘Jungle’, waiting in limbo and largely reliant on charities for food, water, sanitation and education. They also face the threat of eviction with the planned closure of the camp by French authorities.
Ahead of the demolition of the camp, the Red Cross is asking the UK government to act quickly to speed up the process of reuniting children with their families.
Alex Fraser, Director of Refugee Support at the British Red Cross said “Right now, the system for transferring children who have a right to be in the UK has numerous problems. Children, who could be rebuilding their lives in safety with their only surviving relatives, are instead being left to fend for themselves in conditions unimaginable to most adults.
“With the forthcoming evictions in Calais reportedly planned by the French Government, these bureaucratic problems are now more pressing than ever. We need urgent action from both the UK and French Governments. Children with a legal right to be here should be on the Eurostar across the channel, not being dispersed somewhere else in France, with no idea when they can join their family.”
“We welcome recent commitments from Home Office officials to work with their French counterparts to improve the system, and to increase the scale and speed of transfers of unaccompanied children. But more can and must be done, on both sides of the channel, to ensure children do not spend another cold winter living in uncertainty – unsafe, afraid and alone.”
“We share the same goal as the UK government and other agencies working in Calais: that is for unaccompanied children eligible to transfer here from France to do so as quickly and safely as possible.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
- The British Red Cross is the largest provider of support to refugees and asylum seekers in the UK and has been working with Safe Passage, part of Citizens UK, to facilitate the transfer of unaccompanied children to the UK.
- The Dublin III regulation states that asylum seekers with family members already under international protection or in the process of seeking asylum, have the right to be transferred to join their family members and claim asylum in the same country. This EU law is designed to protect the internationally recognised right to an intact family unit.
- Of the 1,179 children living in the Calais ‘Jungle’, 1,022 are alone. Voluntary organisations have so far been able to reunite 72 unaccompanied children in Calais with family in the UK this year under Dublin III, enabling them to rebuild their lives together in safety.
- For further information, interviews or case studies please contact Anna MacSwan