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Jungle children bussed to French centres at risk of going missing, says charity

Published 03/11/2016

The last residents of the Jungle camp have been evacuated
The last residents of the Jungle camp have been evacuated

Children bussed from the Calais Jungle to temporary accommodation centres in France are at serious risk of going missing before their asylum claims are processed, a charity has warned.

Unaccompanied minors eligible for transfer to the UK could flee in frustration over a lack of information about how and when they will be able to apply for asylum, Save the Children said.

Some 1,616 young migrants and refugees were transferred by bus to 60 centres across the country on Wednesday as part of the Home Office-supported operation to clear the camp.

The charity's government relations adviser Dorothy Sang told the Press Association: "We are really pleased that our children are out of danger and are now are in proper, safe accommodation.

"What we are concerned about now is they will still pose a flight risk.

"Efforts need to be concentrated on providing these children with enough information about what the process is and what will be happening to them next."

She said the 11-day operation to clear the Calais settlement had "endangered children primarily through the lack of clear and concise information".

It was impossible to tell exactly how many children fled the camp last week as it was destroyed by bulldozers and raging fires, Ms Sang feared.

But, she said, the lack of protection indicated lessons had not been learned since Europol's stark announcement in early 2016 that around 10,000 unaccompanied children had gone missing since arriving on the continent.

An unaccompanied minor who arrived at a centre near Marseille in the south of France at 3am on Thursday said he felt "forgotten and helpless" in the new location.

The 17-year-old, who did not want to be named because he feared for his safety, said s ome of his friends, who are aged 16 and 17, plan to leave the temporary centre if they do not get any information soon.

He told the Press Association: "I do not know what to do, I feel that somebody has forgotten me because I have done the interview and they haven't called me up.

"They moved me far away and yesterday they told me British people would come to us.

"I want somebody to be here - I need somebody to be here so I know what is going on."

Two British officials were present on each bus that left Calais on Wednesday, but the teenager said he had not seen any since his group of around 40 teenagers was dropped off early the following morning.

Instead, he said, he and his friends were facing pressure from those around them to stay in France.

He said: "They tried to convince us to stay here and forget about the UK. They keep telling us there is food and free health care... they know we don't want to be here.

"I am really disappointed, I am not happy because they can't be honest with us. They should tell us."

Ms Sang said in response: "We were assuming there would be a Home Office presence in these centres so it's worrying to hear that there isn't."

Meanwhile, the last residents of the Calais camp were evacuated on Thursday.

Some 291 women and children and children were transferred to family centres around the country where they will be able to seek asylum in France or Britain.

They had been housed in a municipal building near the English Channel port which became the anchor of the camp.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "The French authorities have confirmed children in Calais have been moved to specialist facilities across France - we are working closely to identify those who are eligible to come to Britain.

"We are absolutely committed to safeguarding and protecting these children.

"Home Office staff were present on the buses that left Calais and are going to the facilities to consider the eligibility of children to come to the UK."

The Home Office said there is a need to continue to ensure the right checks have been made on these young people - assessing their ages, confirming their identities and eligibility to come to the UK and running security checks.

It said it has transferred more than 300 unaccompanied minors to the UK.

Press Association

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