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The children of the Calais refugee camp face daily horrors. End their anguish now

Publié le 26-07-2016

Source : The Guardian

Auteur : Rowan Williams

« Over the past few days we have had plenty of opportunity to think about fresh starts. A new prime minister and her team are settling in – but whatever changes in leadership we have seen or are likely to see, the challenges of leadership have not gone away, as the terrible events in Nice have reminded us so starkly.

In the Calais refugee camp over the next few weeks, there will be a number of new starts, too. Five babies are due to be born into the destitution and danger of the camp ; and new demolitions and evictions are threatened.

Reports of the dangers facing children in Calais are abundant and comprehensive. The latest, from Unicef UK, described the main fears the children have as being of “violence displayed by the police, civilian militias and traffickers, as well as sexual assault committed against both girls and boys”.

Currently no state or agency maintains any kind of comprehensive register of children in Calais. Best estimates from Help Refugees say that there are about 600 unaccompanied minors there ; records suggest that as many as 200 children disappeared during the last round of evictions.

It should be impossible to write such sentences about western Europe – let alone an area where the British government exercises joint border controls and where £17m of British taxpayers’ money has so far been spent to bring order to chaos and protect the most vulnerable.
How would we react to reports of 600 unaccompanied children in a filthy and dangerous field in Britain, children surrounded by adult men they do not know ?

The biggest challenge is the fact that many of the children in Calais have a full legal and moral right to be brought to safety in Britain. Citizens UK estimate that at least half of the children in Calais should be eligible for this protection, either because they have close family connections with Britain, or under the terms of the amendment brought by Lord Dubs to the Immigration Bill.

Further and possibly violent evictions are now in view. And yet in the last six months, only about 50 children from Calais have been reunited with their families, despite heroic efforts by teams of lawyers on both sides of the Channel, supported by Citizens UK. Last week, Lord Dubs and Unicef UK revealed that not one single child has yet been identified under the terms of his amendment, let alone transferred to the UK by the British authorities.

’They are falling apart’ : the fate of lone children in Calais’ refugee camp
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Working to guarantee safe passage for these refugee children before the bulldozers arrive would be a powerful sign of the commitment our new prime minister has articulated for those who feel left behind and powerless.

New starts should mean new hopes. We must hope that the prime minister and her colleagues will remember that, as Westminster changes, these challenges remain, and grow more urgent day by day. This new administration has a unique opportunity to honour the promises made by the UK to these children and to transform the conversation about Calais – an opportunity to give all these children the security and dignity that should be theirs.

An emergency fund has been set up to help the children in Calais who have a legal right to come to the UK. »

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