Child refugees stuck in limbo – what the children of Calais need now is information
For months now, images of Calais have been splashed across the news: the squalid conditions; tents and makeshift buildings set ablaze; and French police suited and booted, ready for crowd control.
Now that the so-called Jungle has been demolished and cleared of its former occupants, an eerie silence has fallen around it.
But away from the remnants of the camp, hundreds of children who once called the camp home are dotted around France, each still just as uncertain about what their futures hold. Until last week.
Bad news arrives
News reports emerged that the UK government was not planning to take in any more children from Calais beyond the 750 who have already been brought over.
It’s still to be determined whether that is the case – but that makes no difference now.
Children who have been waiting weeks to find out if their asylum claims in the UK have been approved, have instead heard rumours about their futures in the news. And now, the panic has set in.
Volunteers and our partners on the ground – the Refugee Youth Service – are taking frantic calls from children who are terrified that they have been forgotten, confused about who will help them, and wondering where they will live now.
Everyone is doing their best to reassure children, to explain that whether they are in the UK or France, they can be protected, but more needs to be done.
Some children have already gone missing in the past few weeks – desperate to find another way into the UK.
Others are being treated for mental health issues, with some children talking of self-harm and suicidal thoughts. We fear the situation will only get worse.
For many children, this is the latest in a chain of traumatic events. They fled war and persecution in their own countries, lost parents and family members, risked their lives in rubber dinghies across the Mediterranean – all the while driven by the hope that safety and the chance of a new life awaited them here.
We cannot ignore this. It is very welcome news that 750 children from Calais have been brought over to the UK.
And it is good to hear that the government is unequivocally committed to the Dubs Amendment by continuing to bring over the most vulnerable child refugees across Europe.
They must continue to uphold our proud tradition of helping those who need it most, and make sure that every child in whose best interest it is to be in the UK – no matter where they are from – is brought over without unnecessary delay.
Time for clarity
But in the meantime, for those children stuck in limbo on our doorstep – the UK Government must tell them – clearly and urgently – what is happening with their asylum cases, and what their futures hold.
Likewise, the French authorities must make sure that each and every one of these children, however long they remain in France, are taken care of and given the chance to rebuild their lives.
These children need to know where they stand. They need our support, and they need it now.