By Silvia Martelli
The French government have announced the Calais “jungle” is clear and the closure declared a success, but charities and volunteers on the ground remain concerned over potentially hundreds of unregistered child refugees with nowhere to go.
During the past year, the population of the Jungle reached its highest rate (at least 7,000 people), yet the camp won’t exist for any longer. Earlier this month, French President Francois Hollande announced its “full and final” dismantlement through a plan that expects to have it completely torn down by December.
One of the main issues that determined this drastic decision was the fact that the camp was unofficial, which meant that it did not qualify for international assistance. Therefore, charities have been in full charge of migrants’ basic needs, often lacking the necessary funds to fulfil them.
Prior to the camp’s closure, which started on Monday 24th October, thousands of leaflets were distributed, asking camp’s residents to queue up at a reception point in order to be bussed out to various asylum centres in France.
In the meantime, there are around a thousand unaccompanied children who speak no English and little French remaining in built container cabins in the Jungle, waiting to be assessed for eligibility to come to the UK. The priority is given to children either under the age of 12, likely to be granted refugee status or at high risk of sexual exploitation.
Since October 10th, two hundred children have already been transferred to the UK. However it is believed that there are forty-nine other children known to be eligible still in the camp. “The younger children are struggling to understand where they are supposed to go, and how they are supposed to get there,” an Help Refugees’ member said.
So far the demolition has been highly controversial. The French officials declared the camp empty last Wednesday, however aid workers have argued that there are still dozens of unaccompanied minors left on site.
Demolition crews are continuing to clear the tents and shelters from the area that were left-behind, which were damaged in fires reportedly set by departing migrants.
Volunteers found shelter for the children in a warehouse where many of the migrants were being processed, as well as a makeshift school inside the camp.
The camp has become a key symbol of Europe’s migration crisis, with its residents desperate to reach the UK.