BHRC publishes fact-finding report on Calais and the plight of child refugees

BHRC has released its fact-finding report, “Breakdown: the dismantling of the Calais “Jungle” and of the promises to its unaccompanied children”. 

BHRC Chair Kirsty Brimelow QC said:

“The unaccompanied children of Calais have faced horror, both in their home countries and in France, in “the Jungle” camp. Nearly a year later, the horror continues as children remain vulnerable to trafficking, abuse, starvation and disease, These children bear silent witness to the failure that was the demolition of the Jungle camp. They are the exclamation marks that should litter this report.

The UK and French authorities have an obligation under national and international law to act in the best interest of these children—to ensure their safety and security, to provide a place for them to sleep and to live, and to give them an opportunity to be children again. The UK government must lift the arbitrary cut-off date for applications from unaccompanied children and increase the number of children it will accept under the Dubs Amendment.” 

The report documents the demolition of the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp in October 2016 and the subsequent failures by French and UK authorities to adequately protect and process the estimated 1,000 unaccompanied minors living in the camp as witnessed and researched by BHRC Chair Kirsty Brimelow QC and Jelia Sane. The BHRC delegation comprised the only barristers who accessed the camp during the demolition on 27th October.

The delegation witnessed first-hand the terrible conditions and arbitrary processing of children that prevailed during the dismantling of “the Jungle”. They gathered evidence from sources that included unaccompanied children, NGOs, local lawyers and two “whistleblower” France Terre d’Asile (‘FTDA’) officials.

Based on the evidence collected, BHRC concludes that

  1.  In the rush to demolish the camp, the French and British authorities failed to take effective steps to safeguard the welfare and safety of unaccompanied children, leaving many at risk.
  2. The authorities failed to ensure that children had access to safe accommodation before the demolition began and to provide both them and the organisations supporting them with clear and reliable information about the clearance operation.
  3. Children were subjected to a chaotic and unlawful age verification and registration process, based in some cases on physical appearance alone. The methods employed by officials were arbitrary and discriminatory without adequate attention to guidelines or proper processes.
  4. The information provided about the process for admitting unaccompanied children into the UK under the Dubs Amendment and the Dublin III regulations was confused and constantly changing, adding another layer of distress and mistrust to an already vulnerable and traumatised population.
  5. The limitation of the number of children admissible under the Dubs amendment and the sudden cessation of the scheme for unaccompanied children is a breach of the spirit of the Dubs legislation, which contained no cap on the number of minors or the time within which they would be accepted. Furthermore, the French and British governments have failed to implement an effective Dublin III system

BHRC calls upon French and UK authorities to provide support and implement safeguards for the children of Calais, in particular locating those children who fled Calais or were displaced by the demolition of the camp and protecting children from trafficking.

BHRC also calls for authorities to implement proper procedures for evaluating child refugee applications, including providing access to legal advice, providing written reasoning for refusals, remove arbitrary cut-off dates for applications into the UK under the Dubs amendment and ensuring review mechanisms are in place for refused applications.

You can read the fact finding report here.

You can read the Guardian’s coverage here.