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Francois Hollande Says UK Authorities Must 'Do Their Part' To Settle Calais 'Jungle' Refugee Children

The French President said his country 'cannot tolerate' the refugee camps.

30/10/2016 08:41

The French president has urged British authorities to “do their part” to settle 1,500 refugee children left in Calais.

Francois Hollande said the minors, most of whom are living in shipping containers in the remains of the so-called Jungle camp, would be transferred “very quickly” to other centres, the Press Association reported.

Hollande said that his country “cannot tolerate” the camps, describing them as “not worthy” of France.

Francois Mori/AP
France's President Francois Hollande

“There are 1,500 minors isolated in Calais. They will be transferred very quickly to other centres,” he told reporters. 

“I spoke yesterday to the British Prime Minister. Bernard Cazeneuve did the same with his UK interior minister counterpart so that the UK can accompany these minors to the centres and do their part to accompany them to the UK.

“So over a short period of time we will be able to evacuate the totality of what was called the camp of Calais.”

His comments come two days after Home Secretary Amber Rudd reminded French authorities of their duty to “properly protect” children, amid reports that youngsters were forced to sleep rough around the smouldering remains of the camp.

Charities also claimed several young people had been taken away by police on Thursday morning.

It is unclear whether the children were arrested, but volunteers said they had not seen them since.

Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Barbara Winton urged Britain to show kindness to young refugees

Concerns for the youngsters’ welfare was also echoed by Barbara Winton, the daughter of a hero dubbed the “British Oskar Schindler”, who called for the same “compassion” he displayed to be shown to Calais’ young refugees.

Winton, whose father was Sir Nicholas Winton, said the “most appropriate way” of honouring the memory of one of the nation’s great humanitarians would be providing safe haven for the imperilled minors.

Sir Nicholas was instrumental in facilitating the flight of 669 mainly Jewish children from Nazi tyranny in Czechoslovakia on the eve of the Second World War.

It is estimated some 6,000 people alive today owe their lives to him.

Among those saved by Winton was Lord Dubs, who, years later, would help secure a commitment from the Government to accept more lone child refugees, with a landmark amendment to the Immigration Act 2016.

In an open letter posted on the Help Refugees website, Winton’s daughter wrote: “My father, Nicholas Winton, witnessed the appalling conditions children were enduring in the refugee camps in Czechoslovakia in 1939 and determined to give them the chance of a better, safer life by bringing them to Britain.”

She added: “In recent years since the story of what my father achieved became public, he has been honoured and praised for the stand he took and the lives he rescued. Though he appreciated the accolades for his earlier work, he remained focused on the most pressing issues of the day.

“He continued to act and help others throughout his life and believed that actively assisting those in need was the most rewarding and ethical way to live. Therefore I believe that the most appropriate way of honouring his memory would be to show the same concern and compassion he did then, for those in danger and in need now.”

Thibault Camus/AP
The ruins of the 'Jungle' camp in Calais

She drew parallels between Britain now and in her father’s time, where there were “disgruntled voices” but “homes were found for these vulnerable young refugees”.

Many of these people went on to become “valuable, integrated citizens, contributing to the well-being of the nation”, she said.

Hundreds of children now face a tense wait for their asylum applications to be processed at centres throughout France.

Scores had been forced to sleep rough in the days following the mass evacuation.

French officials declared the clearance complete on Wednesday, with the site evacuated of 5,596 people since the operation began on Monday.

A government spokeswoman said: “We are firmly committed to working with the French to safeguard and protect children who remain in Calais - and that includes transferring eligible children to the UK safely and as soon as possible.

“We have already transferred a considerable number of unaccompanied minors to the UK so far this year, and as the Home Secretary told Parliament this week, several hundred more children and young people will be brought to the UK in the coming days and weeks.”

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