British newspapers questioning the “real” ages of child refugees arriving in the UK from the Calais jungle camp have been condemned for their “despicable” treatment of minors who have suffered trauma.
Images featured in publications including the Sun, the Daily Express and the Daily Mail prompted some to question whether the unaccompanied minors - who it is said are between 14 and 17 - really were teenagers.
The group arrived as part of efforts to resettle youngsters from the Calais “Jungle” are stepped up before the camp is demolished.
Under the EU’s Dublin Regulation, asylum claims must be made in the first safe country a person reaches - but children can have their application transferred to another country if they have family members living there.
The reporting caused outcry among many.
Co-leader of the Green Party Jonathan Bartley slammed the Daily Star for their front page on the story, calling it “despicable”:
While Labour MP Stella Creasy also hit out at the way the story had been reported:
But Twitter users had their own way of hitting back: by posting pictures of themselves at the same age...
Others described how they and their friends and family looked at a similar age...
Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais, said: “The tone of some reports on the arrival of the vulnerable and unaccompanied minors does not reflect the empathy and kindness of the British public.
“These young refugees have a legal right to claim asylum and have experienced unthinkable horrors. Many have endured extreme violence or seen their loved ones killed.
“Demolitions are fast approaching and charities such as Care4Calais, who provide vital front line aid to the refugees, are struggling to cope. Now, more than ever, it is essential that these organisations are supported.”
Dozens more children are expected to arrive this week after a team of British officials were sent to Calais to help French authorities speed up the transfer of minors ahead of the dismantling of the Jungle, the Press Association reported.
The arrival of the group on Monday was welcomed by the charity Citizens UK, which said it has reunited 60 children from Calais with relatives in Britain since March.
Lord Dubs, whose amendment to the Immigration Act 2016, requires the Government to relocate unaccompanied refugee children from Europe, said: “In the coming days, Citizens UK’s Safe Passage team will be working round the clock to ensure that all children with a legal right to sanctuary in the UK are brought to safety.
“This includes the children eligible under the Dubs amendment, for whom there is still no official process in place. No child must be left behind in the chaos of demolition.”
He added: “Looking ahead we must never allow a repeat of Calais. The Government must learn lessons from this situation and realise that it has a duty to make the Dublin mechanism work across Europe, as well as establishing a clear procedure for children without family eligible for sanctuary under the Dubs amendment.”
Campaigners say they have identified hundreds of children in the camp who have a right to come to the UK - either because they have family ties here under the so-called Dublin regulations, or through the Dubs amendment.
The Government has faced criticism over efforts to identify and transfer youngsters through the routes.
Last week Home Secretary Amber Rudd told the Commons that more than 80 unaccompanied children had been accepted for transfer under the Dublin regulation so far this year.
The Home Secretary also said that more than 50 children had been taken, largely from Greece, under Lord Dubs’ amendment to the Immigration Act.