France and Britain bicker over last abandoned refugee children in Calais
France is blaming Britain for failing to take responsibility for a group of 100 abandoned migrant children who remain sleeping in makeshift conditions in the debris of the smoldering Calais camp.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve expressed surprise late Thursday at apparent criticism from his British counterpart, Amber Rudd, in a statement that appeared to reprimand the French for failing to safeguard and care for the remaining children.
She reportedly contacted Cazeneuve to “stress the need for children who remain in Calais to be properly protected.”
Cazeneuve said he and his ministerial colleagues had “learned with surprise the declarations of Ms. Amber Rudd.”
“The French Ministers hope… the United Kingdom will quickly execute its responsibilities to take in these minors, who hope to come to the United Kingdom. This is the best way to give them the protection they are due.”
Rudd’s concerns come after 50 teenagers were kicked out of the ‘Jungle’ camp and forced to sleep in makeshift conditions overnight.
Five days into a French operation to clear the camp, the teens were reportedly lured out, being told they would be transported to a reception center where they would be assessed for asylum or reunification with families in the UK.
After an hour, however, no transport arrived. Instead, police units emerged in force with riot shields, tear gas and taser guns, pressuring the group into a side street in an industrial estate, according to the Guardian.
The group of 70 teenagers and adults was eventually let back into the camp to take shelter in an abandoned, unheated school building. Fifteen British volunteers spent the night guarding them from potential fire or people traffickers.
There were no French officials on hand to support the teenagers or the volunteers.
The ongoing dispute between the two governments follows months of reluctance on both sides to take responsibility for the thousands of vulnerable asylum seekers who had gathered in Calais.
Now the camp has been almost entirely cleared and the bickering over who should take the last children continues.
France has rehoused nearly 6,000 people, including more than 1,000 minors. The UK has taken between 240 and 300 children, and is expected to take a few hundred more.
More than 100 children, one of whom is understood to be as young as 11, are still stranded in the camp, waiting for French police and authorities to decide their fate.
European Union rules say Britain must take in unaccompanied children who have family ties in the country under the Dublin Regulation.
Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Sheehan, who was in Calais on Thursday, said both Britain and France were failing in their responsibilities to the children under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
She said the UN treaty meant children are entitled to “special care and assistance,” and as Britain and France are signatories, they are “flouting” the law.
Demolition of the ‘Jungle’ camp is unlikely to solve the problem with migrants in France, much less in Europe, Jean-Didier Berthault, the National Secretary of the French Republicans party for relations with foreign parties, told RT, commenting on the recent move of the French government.
Brussels focuses exclusively on “humanitarian aspect of the refugee issue, consisting in rendering humanitarian assistance in their countries of origin to avoid [further] massive influx of refugees to Europe,” he said, adding that the situation is apparently much more complicated.
The ongoing conflict in Syria “will still lead to a massive inflow of refugees coming to Europe through Libya and Greece,” Berthault told RT, adding that “the migration crisis is unlikely to be over.”
“Europe is indefensible in this matter” as it proposes exclusively humanitarian solution without changing migration policy, he stressed, adding that “a more well-thought-out decision is needed.”