Will Britain & France finally intervene to support children living alone in Calais ‘Jungle’?

© Pascal Rossignol
British and French officials will meet in Calais to discuss how to care for unaccompanied children in the notorious ‘Jungle’ refugee camp. Recent figures suggest there are more than 600 minors living in the camp without parents or guardians.

Councilors from the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents most local authorities in England and Wales, will visit the Calais camp on Thursday to meet with the city’s mayor, Natacha Bouchart.

The LGA said its aim is to share expertise between the two countries on how to keep children safe and ensure they receive adequate care.

The move has been praised by Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England.

“I welcome this renewed LGA commitment to ensure councils across England take responsibility for supporting these vulnerable children and young people, who have been through terrible ordeals,” Longfield said, as quoted by the Press Association.

“During my visit to the Calais camp I was made aware of a large number of unaccompanied children who may be entitled to come to the UK because they have a close relative here. The French authorities need to process these applications with the utmost urgency so that families can be reunited and children can be taken out of the camp to safety,” she continued.

According to figures released by the charity Help Refugees in July, 608 of the 751 children living in the ‘Jungle’ camp are unaccompanied.

If those children are unable to be relocated with family in Europe or the UK, they will “require care and support packages directly from councils or their partners,” said David Simmons, chairman of the LGA’s Asylum, Refugee and Migration Task Group.

“If children do come to the UK, councils want to get it right so that children who have experienced horrendous conditions within and since fleeing their country of origin are able to settle into UK life as quickly and easily as possible with ongoing support made available when they need it,” he added.

Under a scheme announced in May, the British government said unaccompanied child refugees registered in France, Italy or Greece before March 20 could be resettled in the UK.

It came after ministers faced pressure to accept 3,000 child refugees from Europe. However, then-Prime Minister David Cameron said actual numbers would depend on what local councils could successfully handle.

More than 9,100 people are currently living in squalid conditions at the Calais camp, desperately hoping to cross the English Channel into the UK after having had their applications rejected elsewhere, or in expectation of better prospects in Britain than in the rest of Europe.