By Lydia Jackson
Upon French President Francois Hollande’s revelations this week that the Calais refugee camp, otherwise known as the ‘Jungle’, will be closed by the end of the year, people are questioning what will happen to those which have been seeking shelter there.
For British authorities this may be bringing back memories from the turn of the millennium (after the Balkans war), whereby media sources paid close attention to illicit migration from the refugee camp at Sangatte, near Calais.
However, as UNICEF and other charities have pointed out, an estimated 400 of the child refugees currently residing at the Jungle are well within their rights to travel to the UK under current international and Home Office laws. These charities are calling for more action, immediately.
The United Nations (UN) Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951) defines a refugee as a person fleeing their home country due to “well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality… or political opinion”.
There are multiple legal frameworks in place which should serve to protect these individuals, namely the EU’s Dublin regulation, which allows lone refugee children to be placed in a country where they have a relative who can be responsible for their care.
More recently is the Dubs amendment, an amendment to the Immigration Act this year. This Act was put forwards by Lord Dubs, a British Labour politician and former MP who moved to Britain on the Kindertransport from Nazi occupied Europe, and allows the legal immigration of 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children to come to the UK from Europe.
The Home Office has faced criticisms for its lack of action, including recently from 10 Conservative MPs who have written to Amber Rudd, Home Secretary, requesting that she does more to help the hundreds of vulnerable children within their rights to seek asylum in the UK.
It would seem that the widely publicised pictures of brothers Aylan and Galip Kurdi, 3 and 5, who were washed up dead on a Turkish beach earlier this year, had an emotional impact on many across the globe, though only served to temporarily end the demonisation of child refugees.
It has not provoked the necessary action from those in the position to act upon legislation. As a result, a 14-year-old boy from Afghanistan was in such despair last month at the length of legal proceedings, that he risked his life as a stowaway on a lorry headed for Britain. Tragically, it led to his death.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)(1989) explicitly states in article 6 that “Every child has the right to life” and that “governments must do all that they can to ensure that children… develop to their true potential”.
Charities have pointed out that many children currently in the Calais camp which should be in school are being denied this right, instead living in squalor and chaos, and at high risk to exploitation, disease and severe mental health issues.
Once the camp closes these children will have even less chance of an education, will become more vulnerable to these risks, and others, including people traffickers. Previous cases of camp demolitions have led to children going missing, their whereabouts still unknown today.
You can find more information on the UNCRC through the UNICEF website: http://www.unicef.org.uk/UNICEFs-Work/UN-Convention/