Education & Family

'Robust plans' called for to resettle Calais migrant children

Children's Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, being interviewed at Calais camp Image copyright Children's Commissioner for England
Image caption Anne Longfield warned that last time the camp was cleared, about 130 children went missing

The Children's Commissioner for England has visited the Calais migrant camp, calling for "robust plans" to protect children living there ahead of its imminent closure.

Anne Longfield accompanied fellow commissioners from France and Belgium and said she backed the camp's closure.

"It is unsanitary, highly dangerous and leaves young people exposed to traffickers," she said.

About 300 children are eligible to come to the UK, says the Commissioner.

On Monday, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said the names of unaccompanied children at the camp who are eligible would be given to the government this week.

Ms Rudd told MPs to expect action within "a matter of days - a week at the most" and that the "bureaucratic element" would now be dealt with "with the sort of urgency that we want to see".

Safety warning

Ms Longfield welcomed the news, but warned that the last time a section of the camp was demolished about 130 children went missing.

She argued that it was critical that the safety of children and young people at the camp is secured before the clearance begins.

"The French government must urgently safeguard these children and get them into specialist centres where they can begin to recover from their ordeals and have asylum applications properly processed - and those with rights to come to the UK be brought here safely," said Ms Longfield.

The Commissioner estimates there are about 1,200 children living at the camp, with about a quarter eligible to be settled in the UK.

This is either through the EU's Dublin regulation, which allows lone refugee children to be placed in a country where they have a relative who can be responsible for their care, or through the Dubs amendment to the Immigration Act, which requires the government to arrange for the transfer to the UK of unaccompanied refugee children from Europe.

Lord Dubs, a Labour peer and long-time refugee campaigner, came to Britain as a child on the Kindertransport programme to escape Nazi persecution.

Ms Longfield wants to see:

  • Safe accommodation for all unaccompanied children in the camp
  • Children with rights to come to the UK placed in specialised reception centres
  • Clear plans for all children once the camp closes

Aid agencies say that overall there are 9,000 people in the camp seeking to reach Britain.

The French government wants to resettle them around the country and to close the camp by the end of the year

More on this story