In response to the fire which razed the Dunkirk refugee camp to the ground last night, leaving hundreds of people homeless, charities are calling on the UK government to transfer the children from the camp who have a legal right to be with their families in the UK.
Safe Passage, in partnership with the Dunkirk Legal Support Team and Help Refugees have identified 80 children in Dunkirk who have relatives in the UK and the right to be safely and legally transferred. Given the extreme distress that the children now face, charities are calling on the UK government to transfer them immediately.
Currently no arrangements have been made by French or UK authorities for the safe accommodation of unaccompanied children from the Dunkirk camp leaving the children at real risk of disappearing in the chaos.
Safe Passage have sent the list of 80 Dublin eligible children to the UK Home Office, and will be sharing that list with their French counterparts.
Rabbi Janet Darley, spokesperson for Citizens UK’s Safe Passage project, said:
“The children Safe Passage are working with in Dunkirk should never have been in the camp in the first place; they have a moral and a legal right to be with their relatives in the UK. The government needs to learn the lessons of the Calais camp and the fire in Dunkirk and put a fully functioning family reunion system in place between France and the UK.”
The Dunkirk Legal Support team said:
“The Dunkirk camp was never a safe place for unaccompanied minors, and last night’s fire only served to highlight that in the most horrific way. The children we are working with are in a desperate situation. We are concerned that as they become dispersed they will give up trying to reach their families through safe and legal routes and put their lives into the hands of traffickers.”
Michael McHugh from Refugee Youth Service said:
“This situation again highlights that without access to family reunification processes or support to access French and European protections systems vulnerable young people will end up staying in unsuitable camps for lengthy periods and remain at risk of violence, exploitation or sadly being lost from the system during points of crisis.”
Josie Naughton of Help Refugees said:
“Today in Dunkirk, over 100 children have become homeless. More than half of these children have a legal right to be living with family in the UK. Both the French and UK governments are putting lives at risk by ignoring the situation. They need to expedite the process for family reunion to the UK, and put proper protection measures in place for those claiming asylum in France, as they should have done so long ago.”