Fourteen boys aged 14-17 have arrived in the UK from the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp. The BBC report that most “are from Afghanistan and Syria, while one is a stateless Bidun who originated from Kuwait”.
They are among about 100 minors who will be brought over by the Home Office. Their first task will be to register with the Home Office in Croydon. A number of checks also need to take place, to ensure they will be in a safe environment with their relatives. Ahead of any family reunions, the children will be cared for by state agencies.
The children are being transferred ahead of the expected clearance of the Calais camp by French authorities. A Home Office spokesperson said:
“This is the start of the process to transfer as many eligible children as possible before the start of the clearance, as the home secretary set out in Parliament. These vulnerable children… were transferred to the UK under the care of Home Office staff, with the support of volunteers from specialist NGOs and charities. They will join their families in the UK as quickly as possible over the coming days.”
Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams,met the children upon arrival in Croydon. He welcomed that “at last the government has taken some official steps to get the children coming” but was unsure why there was “such foot-dragging“.
“But we have had confirmation that the home secretary is eager to see movement… and we want to press that willingness and make sure it delivers”.
Citizens UK commented:
“These are children who are particularly vulnerable. It appears that no system has been put in place to register and assess these children, despite assurances from home secretary.”
Because they have close relatives already in the UK, these children can seek asylum in the same country. Other children in the camp will be eligible to come to the UK under Lord Dubs’ amendment to the Immigration Act in May. A visual count in the camp conducted last week by la Préfecture du Pas-de-Calais found that between 5,700-6,500 people were resident, and it is estimated that 1,200 of these are unaccompanied minors.