The UK government has agreed to take in lone children with existing links to Britain.
Hundreds of Syrian children from the refugee camp in Calais could be resettled in the UK in a matter of days as France prepares to demolish the so called Jungle.
Aid agencies have been working with British and French officials to register all unaccompanied children who have links to the UK. The operation to register the children, and bring them safely to Britain, has become more urgent as the French government prepares to demolish the camp next week.
The UK government has agreed to take in lone children with existing links to Britain and about 300 minors are expected to be brought into the country in the coming days. A Home Office spokesman said: “Work is continuing on both sides of the Channel to ensure this happens as a matter of urgency.”
He said the home secretary, Amber Rudd, had made it “crystal clear” to the French interior minister that she intended to “transfer as many minors as possible” who are eligible under the rules.
Although asylum seekers usually have to make a claim for protection in the first safe country they reach, the rules for children mean their claim can be transferred if they have family members living somewhere else.
Officials are working against the clock to complete the process as fears grow of a mass disappearance of children ahead of the planned eviction and demolition.
There are also fears those children who are not eligible to seek asylum in Britain will be particularly vulnerable once the authorities move in and raze the camp to the ground.
With local councils set to absorb the pressures of the influx of unaccompanied children, the chairman of the Local Government Association’s asylum, refugee and migration task group, David Simmonds, said councils will “require long-term funding arrangements from government so that the commitment to support those children starting a new life in the UK is properly funded”.
Simmonds said taking on children who had been living in the squalor of the camp could put increased pressure on stretched local authority resources.
“Those arriving from the Calais camp will require care and support packages directly from councils and their partners,” he said.
“For those children relocated with existing family living in the UK, councils will still want to be assured that arrangements put in place can meet the child’s needs and that they are safe and well. Many will have also experienced horrendous conditions within and since fleeing their country of origin, so councils will want to ensure they are able to settle into communities as quickly and easily as possible with ongoing support made available when they need it.”
The news of the arrival of child refugees comes as reports emerged over French police stripping people of their shoes and phones to keep them trapped in the camp before their official eviction.
According to a recording secured by the Independent, refugees who had ventured just outside the confines of the Jungle were stopped by police. The French officers demanded their shoes and forced them to walk back into the camp.
A report published in the summer by the Bar Human Rights Committee revealed French authorities regularly took personal items, including phones, from the refugees in the camp.
Gráinne Mellon, co-author of the BHRC report and barrister at Garden Court Chambers, told the Independent: “We found evidence of what appeared to be fairly routine acts of violence in the camp, including shoes being removed and phones being confiscated, corroborated by a number of different sources. The confiscation of these items is a breach of criminal law and against all policing codes and ethics, but in addition to that and more worryingly it feeds into this sense in the camps that the residents don’t have any rights.”