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UK close to deal to transfer child refugees from Calais, says Rudd

Publié le 10-10-2016

Source : www.theguardian.com

Auteurs : Alan Travis et Amelia Gentleman

« MPs press home secretary to clarify how many of 1,000 unaccompanied children Britain will take when camp closes

British and French ministers are close to a deal to safeguard or bring to the UK hundreds of unaccompanied refugee children within the next fortnight as France prepares to close the Calais camp, the home secretary told MPs.

Amber Rudd said after a two-hour meeting on Monday with her French counterpart, Bernard Cazeneuve, that the official effort would prioritise safeguarding children aged under 12 – while after her announcement Labour MPs pressed her to clarify how many of the 1,000 unaccompanied children in Calais the UK would take.

In a statement to the Commons, the home secretary said : “We are expecting to reach agreement. When the camp clearances take place in the next few weeks we will be working very closely with the French.”

Rudd told MPs that the French authorities had agreed to verify by the end of this week a list of 387 child refugees with a legal right to come to the UK drawn up by the campaign group Citizens UK. “Once we have that official list we will move quickly within days and remove very quickly those children,” she said.

Rudd said that as many children as possible with direct family links in Britain would be brought to the UK under the Dublin convention before the Calais camp was closed, while the rest would be transferred during the rest of the operation.

“I emphasised to Monsieur Cazeneuve that we should transfer as many minors as possible from the camp eligible under the Dublin regulation before clearance commences, with the remainder coming over within the next few days of operation,” Rudd told the Commons.

“I also outlined my views that those children eligible under the Dubs amendment to the Immigration Act 2016, must be looked after in safe facilities where their best interests are properly considered.” Rudd added that Britain was prepared to help fund the accommodation.

MPs on all sides welcomed the home secretary’s apparent new sense of urgency on the issue.

The chair of Labour’s refugee taskforce, Yvette Cooper, said the home secretary’s commitment to take all the Calais child refugees with family in the UK “within the next two weeks” was important and welcome.

“Clearance of the Calais camp is due to start next week but there still aren’t proper safe places for the hundreds of unaccompanied children to go – putting them at even greater risk of trafficking and abuse,” said Cooper.

“The commitment for the first time to take additional children from Calais under the Dubs amendment is also an important one – but we need to know how many and how fast, and what will happen to them when the camp is cleared next week.”

Rudd promised that bureaucracy would no longer hamper the government’s determination to help the lone child refugees in the camp. A second Home Office asylum expert is to be sent to France and an official-level contact group has been set up between the two governments to deal with the situation. In London a dedicated Home Office team has been set up within its “Dublin unit” to process the transfers.

Rudd refused to put a figure on the number of child refugees who were likely to be brought to Britain as a result of the expected deal or give a likely timetable, saying it would only help the people traffickers. She did however tell the Daily Mail in an interview published on Monday that if 300 child refugees came to the UK that would be “a really good result”.

The French have also refused to name a specific date on their planned clearance of the refugee camp in Calais but it is expected that its closure will rapidly follow the agreement between the French and British over the fate of the near 1,000 unaccompanied child asylum seekers believed to be in the camp.

The deal is not expected to cover the estimated 9,000 adult asylum seekers in the Calais camp who will instead be dispersed to other centres around France when the camp closes. Those adults with close family ties to Britain will have their claims to be transferred to the UK considered under the lengthy Dublin relocation process.

Officials from the main French children’s charity working in Calais started a census of all the children currently based in the camp on Monday. The registration of all children was expected to take two days and will be used to verify the original list of 387 children with a legal right to go to the UK provided to the Home Office on 2 September.

The Calais prefecture asked the organisation France Terre d’Asile to conduct a census of all minors, collecting names and ages of all the children currently living in the camp.

Although Citizens UK and the local charity L’Auberge des Migrants have previously counted and made unofficial registers of the children, the population is very fluid, with some children leaving and new children arriving every day. A spokesperson from France Terre d’Asile said it would not comment on its findings until the census was complete.

Mary Jones, who runs the Kids’ Cafe in the camp, where approximately 200 unaccompanied children receive free food daily, said she had been told to expect representatives from the charity on Monday to begin making a list of minors. “If they are focused on under-12s, there are very few of them. The youngest, an eight-year-old, made his way to the UK at the weekend,” she said.

The campaigner and actor Juliet Stevenson, representing Citizens UK’s Safe Passage project in Calais, said she welcomed the government’s announcement that it was willing to take in some of the unaccompanied children from the camp in Calais.

“However, they need to do it much faster. Much faster,” she said. “Every night unaccompanied children are risking their lives trying to reach the UK, and the imminent threat of the demolition of the camp is only making them more desperate.” »

Voir en ligne : https://www.theguardian.com/world/2...

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