Children are being abandoned and left to sleep alone and without shelter after French authorities demolished the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp and did not register unaccompanied youngsters in time to move them to alternative accommodation before nightfall, charities say.
Help Refugees UK, who are helping those who have been turfed out of the camp, have been posting regular updates from Calais.
In one Instagram post, which shows a teenager wrapped in a blanket, Help Refugees said: “He is just one of the many refugee teenagers in Calais who have been completely abandoned by the French state and has nowhere to go now. He, and many others, will sleep rough tonight in the cold, on an industrial estate road.”
Images of the destroyed camp show the remains of refugees’ belongings after fires broke out earlier this week. Hundreds of people have also been pictured on the side of the road, having been left with nowhere else to go.
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Charities said that hundreds of people, including unaccompanied children, are still waiting to be registered by the French authorities. But faith in the system is waning, with some organisations questioning just how well the registration process is “functioning”.
The Refugee Youth Service (RYS) said in a statement: “Children have been completely misinformed at every step and many have yet to be given safe and secure accommodation by the French state.
“RYS have had reports today (Thursday) that children who have not been processed are now being arrested by the state.”
RYS continued: “This ties in to our concerns for children who have had their age disputed based on their looks and have therefore been denied their registration as a child.
“Yesterday, RYS made further recommendations that would ensure every child still living within this very dangerous camp had a space to sleep.
“These were not adhered to and children were forced to sleep outside and only received the most basic provisions from other volunteer services. With a lack of information, RYS remains extremely concerned for the safety of every single child that is in this camp.”
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Save the Children’s humanitarian adviser, Dorothy Sang, has described the “terrified” children she has encountered at the camp, “which is now more dangerous than it has ever been”.
“Yesterday I saw a 17-year-old boy with a broken leg forced to hobble up the road to register, then turned away without so much as a second glance as registration was closed. Turned away and given no alternative for a place to sleep.
“Last night was possibly one of the most dangerous nights for children in the Jungle, yet hundreds still remained.
“I sat with a terrified boy from Afghanistan. Everyone he knew in the camp had gone, and without a space in the container camp for children, he was being asked to sleep alone in the Jungle - a prospect which totally overwhelmed him as he sat with his head in his hands,” Sang writes.
Earlier this week, Help Refugees’ co-founder, Lliana Bird, told the Huffington Post UK that 400 unaccompanied children were forced to sleep under a bridge after fires decimated the camp.
Help Refugees’ final census of the camp established there were 1,291 unaccompanied children in the camp just before demolition, an increase from 1,022 in September.
This was despite the fact around 2,000 people left the camp in September, leaving a total population of 8,143.
Hundreds of the adults in the camp were bussed out to other places in France as the demolition began earlier this week.
But children have not been moved this way and, except those who have come to Britain under the Dubs amendment or family reunification law, they have remained in the camp, Bird said.
Last year 10,000 children reportedly disappeared after arriving alone in Europe.