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Transfer of vulnerable child refugees from France to UK to end, charities say

Publié le 17-05-2019

Source : The Guardian

Autor : Harriet Grant

Exctrats :

«  Home Office refuses to confirm plans, but campaigners warn Dubs scheme closure would leave minors facing ‘daily risk’ of abuse

The scheme to transfer vulnerable child refugees from France to Britain is being ended, the Guardian has learned, leaving hundreds of lone children facing a “daily risk” of exploitation in Dunkirk and Calais.

Charities in France say they have been told by French authorities that only nine more children, who have already been identified, will be transferred to the UK under the Dubs scheme for unaccompanied child refugees.

The Home Office has refused to confirm whether transfers will continue from France, but the Guardian has already heard reports of highly vulnerable children going missing after being told that they stand no chance of getting to the UK legally.


In a filthy camp in Dunkirk, children and families are living in rain-soaked, flimsy tents alongside large groups of men. Children play in rivers of mud while hundreds of teenage boys are at constant risk of sexual exploitation, sharing tents with older men.

Charities say the poor conditions and increasing police violence are pushing children into the hands of abusers and exploiters.

Hayley Willis of the Refugee Youth Service in Dunkirk, a charity that currently has 250 minors on its books, said she sees indications that they are being exploited every day.

“I have a background of working with sexually abused children, so I know the signs. Children who have no money suddenly have an iPhone or new trainers, or they are moved from one camp to another, away from their friends. They self-harm, they turn up drunk, they have suicidal thoughts. We hear : ‘I’m lucky to share a tent with an older guy.’ We hear this daily.

The only other legal route a child can use to reach the UK is to apply under an EU law known as the Dublin regulation. This allows minors to have their case transferred to another EU country in which they have close family.

Many young people in Dunkirk and Calais are trying to reach family, but it is a very lengthy process. Lawyers say it is now “almost impossible” because of the burden of proof the Home Office requires.


‘Exploitation at every level’

Since the Calais refugee camp was destroyed in 2016, police, local authorities and the British and French governments are determined not to allow a permanent camp of any kind to spring up again. The settlement in Dunkirk, emergency winter accommodation provided by the local city council, is due to close in the next few weeks.

Maddy Allen, field coordinator for Help Refugees in northern France, said the dire conditions were contributing to young people becoming targets for predators.


“Over winter men would drive up, beep their horn and offer boys food and drinks for sexual favours. Our teams had this reported from the people we support multiple times. This is in a context where the police recently covered food in teargas. This was on 16 April. A week later they cut all their water jerrycans. They have poured bleach into tents. This situation is a recipe for exploitation – it exists at every level. ”

Charities have also collected evidence of water jerrycans being cut by police and chemicals being poured into refugees’ tents.

The Guardian contacted the sous- préfet of Calais with the allegations but they did not respond.

Last week, a number of organisations defending human rights in northern France lost a court challenge over the refusal of local authorities to provide food and water to refugees.

Allen believes there should be basic support for people who arrive in Calais and that the poor conditions are not stopping people coming to northern France.

“You will never, ever stop people crossing. All you will do is make it increasingly dangerous. For a young person who has no money, what are they going to have to do to get across ? We know they are being exploited. There is exploitation at every level, for the most basic things.”

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