Why Is The Calais Refugee Camp Being Demolished & What Will Happen To Its Children?
On Monday in France, the notorious "Jungle," or the Calais refugee camp, was demolished and some unaccompanied children were taken away on buses to processing centers meant for adults. On Monday night, the demolition of the camp was going a bit chaotically and many migrants reported not knowing where they were going or what to do. The Calais camp was one of the last stops for refugees from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Sudan and other countries looking to move to England or France.
The camp was dubbed "The Jungle" for its large population — at one point there were 9,000 migrants who called it home. The camps had restaurants, shops, and even a library. On Monday, 2,300 migrants were moved and the camp is expected to be entirely dismantled over the next few days.
However, there are around 1,000 unaccompanied minors at the camp, according to BuzzFeed, that were meant to be housed in shipping containers at the camp and be processed separately to England. But the Home Office in England announced late Monday that the process had been suspended for 24-hours after there were reports that some children were processed along with adults. Help Refugees, a U.K.-based charity aiding the in the transport of the minors said in a statement to BuzzFeed News that, “This chaotic setup is extremely distressing and confusing for the lone minors. The younger children are struggling to understand where they are supposed to go, and how they are supposed to get there.”
Britain already began to accept some 1,300 of the migrants last week, but volunteers are wary about how the whole dismantling process is going so far. “This is disappointing and we hope that the progress made in the last week will resume tomorrow,” George Gabriel, a volunteer with Citizens UK, told BuzzFeed. "The Home Office must not allow vulnerable children to fall back into the hands of people smugglers because of avoidable delays.”
Yvette Cooper, a representative of the Labor Party in Britain said that the dismantling of the camp happened a little bit at the last minute. She said that there are some children with families in the U.K. that are stuck in France after being taken to a processing center for adults and others that are stuck in the camp. Cooper said that French authorities have no safe plans for the children to go as the process continues.
Lucie Carpentier, a lawyer working in the camp to help with processing applications from minors or asylum echoed this worry.“We’ve been asking authorities for weeks and weeks and weeks for information, and we only started getting it a few days ago. What we have is hardly specific enough — we don’t know what the process is or where they will end up.” Most of the centers, where the migrants are theoretically supposed to be able to apply for asylum, are far from the coast and ports to Britain, according to The Washington Post.
France said that it is closing the camp for humanitarian reasons, but the large population of the camp has turned it into a symbol of sorts for the entire refugee crisis in Europe. French officials said that it would not use force to remove the migrants, who they feared wouldn't go with without a fights, but that they would do anything they could to "quell" unrest, according to The Washington Post. Over the weekend, there were some protests, but according to reports, on Monday the camp was quieter. The French Interior Ministry is making around 7,500 beds available in other temporary shelters throughout the country for those they transport from Calais.
Many of the refugees do not want to stay in France, which is a little hostile towards refugees and want to go on to Great Britain. Given the circumstances of the demolition, though, many minors might be lost this week in the mix without clear directions.