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Calais Jungle refugees 'should be reunited with their families in Britain'


The Jungle refugee camp in Calais, France

The Jungle refugee camp in Calais, France

The Jungle refugee camp in Calais, France

Four young Syrian refugees living in "The Jungle" should be reunited with their families in Britain and escape the "living hell" of the Calais refugee camp, a court has heard.

The four young men, who cannot be named for legal reasons, are facing "intolerable" conditions and should not stay in the sprawling camp another day, lawyers have argued.

The men - two teenagers and a 17 year-old and his mentally-ill 26-year-old brother - all have siblings legally living in Britain and so under EU law would eventually have their cases considered by the Home Office.

But in a case that could hold important legal implications for many other refugees wanting to cross the channel from Calais, they have applied for the British Government to immediately take up their asylum cases, bypassing the French authorities.

This would allow them to live in Britain while their claims are considered.

The Home Office has turned down their applications, but lawyers are appealing against the decision, claiming it breaches their rights to a family life under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

The four young refugees, who fled war-torn Syria last September and arrived at the camp in October, are said to be deeply "traumatised" by their experiences, the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal in central London heard.

Michael Fordham QC, representing the applicants, reeled off a list of UN officials, charities and British MPs who have spoken out about the "intolerable situation" at the camp.

Quoting from a report by a doctor who assessed the refugees, Mr Fordham said: "Conditions in the camp means that further traumas are added to the ones they have already experienced.

"It would not be possible to find conditions more unsuitable to minors than the Calais camp."

Laura Griffiths, a charity volunteer working in The Jungle, described it as a "toxic waste camp" that amounted to "living hell".

Mr Fordham told the hearing: "What do these children need? They need to be reunited with their siblings."

The court heard that all the men have been traumatised, that several of them suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and that squalid conditions at the camp are aggravating these health problems.

Mr Fordham said the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said the camp amounted to "an undignified and intolerable situation".

T he United Nations special representative on migration Peter Sutherland branded the camp "a stain on Europe" and "living hell", the court heard.

The French authorities would usually take the lead in the cases because the refugees are on their soil. However, under EU law known as Dublin III, refugees who are unaccompanied minors and have family who are legally living in the UK should have their asylum claims processed by Britain and be given leave to live in Britain while this is undertaken.

But it is suggested the Dublin mechanism isn't working in France and refugees are facing lengthy delays in their cases being handed over to Britain.

Solicitors for the four young men said there have been no successful cases of Dublin III having worked for under-age refugees in France with family in Britain.

The result is that refugees continue to live in limbo in the camp and some decide to risk their lives and try to get over the border illegally, it is claimed.

An Afghan teenager was reportedly found dead in the back of a lorry travelling from Dunkirk to Britain, where his sister lives, in recent weeks.

The teenager, said to be called Masud, had a legitimate claim for entry to the UK because of his sister, but reportedly fed up with the squalor of the camp and delays to his case being processed, he attempted the crossing illegally with tragic consequences.

Mr Fordham said that if the judges rule in favour of the four young men then it could open the door to other applications from refugees at the camp hoping to come to Britain.

He said: "It will apply to others, certainly I would say any unaccompanied minor in this camp with a sibling in the UK. And I don't shrink from that."

He added: "Suppose you have only been there a week, my argument is the same. This is intolerable for a day."

David Manknell, representing the Home Office, said the four young men had chosen not to apply for asylum or refugee status in France, and would get support from the state if they did.

He said: "There is no evidence that there is wide-scale failing in the reception conditions for asylum seekers in France."

The hearing will continue at noon on Wednesday.