France moves Calais child migrants as row with Britain simmers
CALAIS – ReutersFrance moved hundreds of child migrants from the site of a demolished camp to reception centers across the country on Nov. 2, as a feud with Britain over who takes care of the youths dragged on.
French authorities transferred more than 5,000 other migrants last week before bulldozers moved in to raze the sprawl of ramshackle shacks and tents nicknamed the “Jungle” by its inhabitants.
But about 1,500 unaccompanied children were left behind. They have been sheltered in converted shipping containers on a site on the edge of the flattened camp as France and Britain squabbled over who should take them in.
Many of them, teenagers from war-ravaged Afghanistan and Sudan’s Darfur region, hugged and wished farewell to companions and charity workers before boarding awaiting buses.
By 00:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m. GMT) some 20 busloads had left. The French government said the operation would be wrapped up within two days.
“Things are moving, and within 48 hours there will be no unaccompanied minors in the temporary center [in Calais],” government spokesman Stephane Le Foll told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting.
The children’s plight has triggered a diplomatic row between Paris and London, with tensions intensifying in recent days after President Francois Hollande pressed Britain to accept its share of responsibility for the minors.
British officials demanded France take better care of them.
Junior Brexit minister David Jones told a parliamentary committee on Nov. 1 that Britain had given shelter to more than 300 children since Oct. 10, but said there had been a pause in the process of admitting children while the camp was closed.
“We anticipate that that will recommence later this week,” the minister said.
The United Nations’ Committee on the Rights of the Child slammed both governments for disregarding the child migrants’ best interests.
“Hundreds of children have been subjected to inhumane living conditions,” the committee said in a statement.
Faced with an uncertain future, the child migrants received colored bracelets marked with the number of the bus they would be travelling on.