Hundreds of refugee children seeking family reunification in Britain are stuck in France, say human rights lawyers

Up to 400 unaccompanied children claiming to have relatives in Britain are stuck in France where their asylum cases are not being actively considered, senior human rights lawyers said in a Guardian article on 8 October 2017.

A study by the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC) released a year after the demolition of the Calais refugee camp, reveals that these children “trapped” in France are still vulnerable to abuse, trafficking and disease.

The Home Office however disputes allegations that asylum applications are not being properly considered. Instead the Home Office points to six alternative legal routes by which children can still enter the UK. Such routes include the Syrian vulnerable persons resettlement scheme and refugee family reunion programmes. More than 900 unaccompanied, asylum-seeking children were allowed into the UK from Europe in 2016, according to the Home Office.

A spokesperson for the Home Office further told the Guardian how the UK had put in place an expedited process, which resulted in over 750 unaccompanied children being transferred to the UK in the autumn of 2016.  “We continue to work closely with the French authorities to transfer eligible children here quickly and safely under the Dublin regulation, the spokesperson added.

On the other hand, barristers from the committee found that family reunification cases under EU asylum regulations were poorly handled, with hundreds of unaccompanied minors now stranded in France having had no proper decisions on their cases. The barristers further noted that children refused asylum at the time were not given an opportunity to challenge age assessments which put them over the age of 18.

Brimelow, chair of the BHRC, said: “The unaccompanied children of Calais have faced horror, both in their home countries and in France, in the “Jungle” camp. Nearly a year later, the horror continues as children remain vulnerable to trafficking, abuse, starvation and disease. These children bear silent witness to the failure that was the demolition of the camp.”

On the basis of their research, BHRC concluded that the French and British authorities failed to take effective steps to safeguard the welfare and safety of unaccompanied children, leaving many at risk. The BHRC further argued that the authorities failed to ensure that children had access to safe accommodation before the demolition began and to provide both them and the organisations supporting them with clear information about the clearance operation.

The BHRC called upon French and UK authorities to implement safeguards for the children of Calais, in particular protecting children from trafficking and locating those children who fled Calais or were displaced by the demolition of the camp. Finally, BHRC called on authorities to implement proper procedures for evaluating child refugee applications, including providing access to legal advice, providing written reasoning for refusals, and ensuring review mechanisms are in place for refused applications.

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