Lawyers for Citizens UK identify 50 ‘live’ cases where children have relatives in Britain – and are working through 300 further cases
Refugee charities say they have identified at least 50 mostly unaccompanied child refugees living in the “Jungle” camp in Calais who have a legal right to live in the UK.
Citizens UK, the group behind the landmark legal challenge that resulted in four Syrian refugees entering the UK from the French camp last month, said it plans to bring scores more cases to court. Lawyers for the charity have identified 50 “live” cases where children have relatives in the UK, and are working through a list of a further 300 cases of mostly unaccompanied children, it said.
But the charity warned that the expulsion order issued by authorities in the French port, which was put on hold temporarily pending a judge’s visit to the camp on Tuesday morning, had already created anxieties among children living there and could put them in danger.
Iona Lawrence, of Citizens UK, said: “We have 50 live cases that would fit with the criteria of Dublin. They are predominately minors but some, including one spousal reunion case, are adults.”
Under European rules, known as the Dublin regulation, asylum seekers must make an initial claim in the first country they reach but can have their application examined in another if they have relatives living there.
The immigration tribunal ruling in January involving four Syrians set a limited precedent for other vulnerable asylum seekers to travel to Britain. However, the judges said conditions would be met in only rare cases.
The Syrians immediately travelled to Britain to join their relatives while their asylum claims were processed, following the case. The Syrians were judged to be unique on several factors, including their ages, their vulnerability, their psychologically traumatised condition and the “acute and ever present dangers to which they are exposed in the jungle”. It is not clear how much weight was attributed by the judges to conditions in the camp and whether refugees living elsewhere may be considered similarly vulnerable.
The 50 live cases include unaccompanied children from Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan and Eritrea.
Lawrence said lawyers for the charity were working “day and night” to build cases, but the threat of eviction would make their job more difficult, as it would scatter the children across France and make absconding a possibility, she said.
“What the French authorities are proposing is for people to go to accommodation centres, but they are spread all over France and they cannot choose where they go,” said Lawrence. “You might suppose if they are in a warm comfortable accommodation centre they might be safe, but these people are incredibly desperate to be with their families in the UK.
“I know tonight that almost every single one of these these 50 cases will go scurrying along to Calais to try to get on a train or a truck or to work with traffickers. The eviction has increased their anxiety, even if the legal option is looking good for them,” she said.
“They might well abscond. The British government has a moral and legal responsibility to take these children.”
Last month, the EU’s criminal intelligence agency, Interpol, said 10,000 unaccompanied child refuges had disappeared after arriving in Europe.
Plans to move people to heated shipping containers elsewhere in the camp and in centres around France were announced last month by the French authorities.
But people living there have previously said they would resist the move, insisting they want to stay in the tents and makeshift houses, despite the poor living conditions.
Refugee groups also say that the French authorities have underestimated the numbers living in the southern end of the camp, which they put at 800 to 1,000. However, a census carried out by HelpRefugees estimates that 3,400 live in this part of the camp, including 440 children, 291 of whom are unaccompanied.