Unaccompanied children formerly resident in Calais Jungle launch legal action against UK Home Secretary

The BBC report that 28 child asylum seekers who formerly lived in the Jungle Camp have launched a legal challenge to UK Home Secretary, Amber Rudd. Their lawyers say that the children seek “written reasons for the determination that it was not in their ‘best interests’ to be relocated to the UK” and are seeking a judicial review in the High Court arguing that the Home Secretary acted unlawfully in the way she handled their applications.

Eleven of those refused entry are aged 14, seven are 15, nine are 16 and one is 17. Sixteen are from Eritrea, 11 from Afghanistan and one is from Sudan. Eight more waiting to have their cases determined are also involved in the legal bid.

The UK Government report that during 2016, 900 child refugees were transferred to the UK. However, there is no breakdown to explain where they came from, how many were children who qualified for family reunification, and how many came under the ‘Lord Dubs’ Amendment’ which enabled unaccompanied children with no family links to be brought to the UK if they are considered to be at risk.

When the Jungle Camp at Calais was closed on 31 October, unaccompanied children were dispersed to 15 reception centres across France. Some of the children are believed to be missing, no longer under the oversight or security of those administering the French camps. Others remain in the reception centres awaiting progress in their asylum applications.

Toufique Hossain works at Duncan Lewis Solicitors, the firm behind the legal challenge. He explained:

“Shortly before the Christmas break hundreds of unaccompanied children formerly resident in the Calais Jungle before it was demolished by the French authorities, whose plight had been the focus of cross-party Parliamentary attention in the run up to the Dubs amendment requiring the UK to take its fair share, were refused entry to the UK, summarily and without reasons.

“The children have been waiting months for the government to formulate a policy and now the policy has failed to allow the relocation of many of the most vulnerable children to the UK, in respect of whom the minister had promised to be ‘flexible’. In fact the way in which the criteria were drawn meant that most of the children from the Jungle were refused.”

A Guardian report gives details of the case of one 14 year old boy. His father helped NATO troops and as a consequence was targeted by the Taliban. Shot in the neck, buried alive, deprived of food, physically and sexually assaulted by people traffickers, shot with rubber bullets and suffered from tear gas while in Calais, evaluated by social workers as “suffering from suicidal ideation and depression” and assessed by an independent psychiatrist “to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and to be a ‘traumatised and vulnerable boy’, the Home Office said that “there was no evidence that he had any particular emotional or psychological needs”.

Toufique Hossain commented:

“The way that this has all been handled by both the UK and French authorities is nothing short of shameful. It is morally reprehensible and, we argue, simply unlawful that these children have not been given written reasons as to why their applications were refused and that these children were told about the refusals in group meetings without a proper procedure in place.”