Calls for urgent action as situation for children worsens a year on from Calais camp closure

28 November 2017
A boy stands next to burning timbers on 1st March 2016 as dismantling of the southern part of 'the jungle' of Calais took place.

LONDON/PARIS/GENEVA, 23 October 2017 - One year on from the demolition of ‘the jungle’ in Calais, the situation remains bleak. Living conditions have worsened for hundreds of children with little access to shelter and clean drinking water, and heightened exposure to exploitation. Collaboration between France and Britain is urgently needed to fulfil promises made to protect children a year ago.

Since the demolition around 1,000 people, including 100 unaccompanied minors, have made their way back to Calais with others travelling to other smaller ports across France. In the absence of safe and legal routes, more than 30,000 desperate attempts were made to reach the UK in the first half of this year alone.

This time last year political will and collaboration saw 750 children given a lifeline, brought to safety in the UK. However since the demolition a further 700  unaccompanied minors are unaccounted for in France as they have fallen through the cracks of a broken system. Due to lack of trust in the system, children find themselves taking matters into their own hands in fear of the consequences of being detected and potentially returned or delayed on their journey. This places them at far greater risk of abuse, exploitation and trafficking. France and the UK should dramatically improve collaboration between their administrations so that refugee and migrant children are fully protected and treated first and foremost as children.

UNICEF has also called on governments globally to ensure there are safe and legal routes for all children. This would avoid the need for children to end up living in squalid conditions, sleeping rough in northern France, to try to reach their families in the UK.

Meanwhile, Unicef UK and Unicef France call for provision of clear information for children on how the French child protection system and legal processes work and how they can reach their families once they arrive in France. Children must also be provided with safe accommodation and adequate support in France by providing more guardians to help them through asylum and family reunion procedures. Moreover the presence of specific mobile teams to identify unaccompanied children in informal camps should be increased and strengthened along with cross-border sharing of child protection information between the two countries.

Unless urgent action is taken the problem will be driven further underground where unaccompanied children are even more vulnerable. With concerted effort France and Britain can build on the action that offered 750 children a lifeline one year ago. Pushing the problem away must no longer be a solution.

Notes to editors 

As part of UNICEF’s Children Uprooted campaign, we continue to call on governments to adopt its six-point agenda for action to protect migrant and refugee children and ensure their wellbeing:
1. Protect child refugees and migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, from exploitation and violence; 
2. End the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating, by introducing a range of practical alternatives; 
3. Keep families together as the best way to protect children and give children legal status;
4. Keep all refugee and migrant children learning and give them access to health and other quality services;
5. Press for action on the underlying causes of large scale movements of refugees and migrants;
6. Promote measures to combat xenophobia, discrimination and marginalization in countries of transit and destination.

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