This morning Safe Passage’s Beth Gardiner-Smith spoke to Sky News about the situation in Calais, where the number of refugees is growing every day.
Over the past 9-months, there have been 17,000 attempts to cross the Channel. the majority of which have seen refugees risk their lives jumping on the back of lorries or in wheel arches to get to the UK.
It is estimated that over 200 child refugees are living rough in Calais. Due to the lack of child protection laws in France, these children are living on the streets or in the woods, without a tent. Even if they have bedding or a tarpaulin this is taken away by the police.
There is no sanitation or clean drinking water and refugees rely on a handful of volunteers to distribute food every day.
This week several newspapers have stated that a new Calais camp is being built, just 9-months after the Jungle was demolished.
This isn’t true.
The numbers are growing every day in Calais, but they live in conditions far worse than even the Jungle provided. Child refugees report beaten and pepper sprayed and live surrounded by people smugglers and traffickers ready to exploit them.
Many of these children have family members in the UK and a legal right to family reunion but have no way to access this safe and legal route in Calais. Even when Safe Passage identifies a child in Calais and establishes they have family in Britain, the child then has to travel to a different local authority in order to start their application and then faces potentially months of waiting before being transferred, all the while at continued risk.
Britain has spent £90million in Calais on building a wall, policing and fences to prevent the dangerous and illegal crossings, but just a tiny fraction of this money has been spent to support safe and legal options for refugees who end up there to reach protection and their family.
Breaking the cycle of demolition and destitution will require Britain and France working together with similar determination to make safe and legal options such as Dublin III family reunion a fast and safe alternative.
No one wants to see the current situation continue, not least the refugees themselves, lives are at risk. The Government needs to provide fast, safe and legal routes for child refugees. Let’s put pressure on Theresa May to do just that, sign our petition here.