The Children’s Commissioner of England has urged the French government to house children currently living in Calais as refugees.
Anne Longfield was joined by her French counterpart Geneviève Avenard in her plea for France to do more. By some estimates there could be as many as 1,000 children currently based at the so-called ‘Jungle’ camp who have no parents, guardians or family with them.
The two commissioners said this was “a matter of urgency” since French President François Hollande’s recent announcement that the camp would soon be shut down. Longfield said while she agreed the camp needed to close, the move to shut it “needs to be done in a properly planned way so that children currently there are protected from harm”.
She was concerned that unaccompanied children could “disappear from the radar of the agencies or try to make the dangerous trip across the Channel in the back of a lorry” if the closure of the camp is not done with enough care.
Earlier this year, part of the camp was demolished. During this time, “papers were destroyed and homes were torn down, support networks ripped up” she said. As a result 129 children went missing according to the Guardian.
Geneviève Avenard insisted that every child at the camp “be provided with appropriate accommodation” adding that the closure should not go ahead until this has been secured.
Longfield also said the UK should do more to help refugee children. The British government has “a responsibility to step up with the French government to ensure those children who can come here are helped to as swiftly as possible” she claimed.
Human rights organisations backed up the two commissioners. UNICEF UK’s deputy executive director, Lily Caprani, said “there must be robust plans to safeguard the hundreds of unaccompanied children currently stranded in the camp” before it is torn down.
Earlier this month, the charity Citizens UK demanded that the UK allow more of these children into the country and give them a safe place to live.