Underage migrants moved out of Calais to sites around France

2016-11-02 15:26
A worker clears up the remains after tents were burnt in the Jungle camp near Calais. (Emilio Morenatti, AP)

A worker clears up the remains after tents were burnt in the Jungle camp near Calais. (Emilio Morenatti, AP)

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Calais, — French authorities began bussing underage migrants on Wednesday out of Calais to processing centres around France, as the government tries to bring a definitive end to the notorious migrant camp in this English Channel city.

Three buses carried a group of boys, mainly teenagers, out of the camp in the morning. Authorities hope to move out all 1 500 unaccompanied child migrants from Calais by the end of the day in about 30 buses, according to the regional administration.

French authorities transferred more than 5 000 adult migrants out of Calais last week, but the fate of its children had remained unclear. Migrants from the Mideast and Africa had converged on the camp over the past 18 months in hopes of crossing to Britain. The filthy, lawless site, which migrants refer to as "the jungle," had become a symbol of Europe's migrant crisis and a source of shame for France.

The child migrants will be taken to 60 dedicated centres scattered around France where British officials will study whether they have the right to UK asylum, according to French and British authorities. The others will be put under the care of French child welfare services.

The operation has rekindled tensions among youth and fears that it means the end of their dream of reaching Britain.

Four people were injured when clashes broke out on Tuesday night between Afghan and Eritrean migrants in the camp, the administration said. Police used tear gas to separate them, and strengthened security at the site overnight.

Representatives of the British Home Office were in Calais on Wednesday to explain to the children what will happen next.

Britain's government says it has taken in more than 300 unaccompanied minors from Calais, and Home Secretary Amber Rudd told Parliament last week that several hundred more would be brought in soon. But details remain unclear. The issue is complicated by Britain's recent vote to leave the European Union, which highlighted the public's unease with immigration.

"We are absolutely committed to safeguarding and protecting children in Calais and have been working very closely with the French to ensure the camp is cleared as safely as possible," Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill said in a statement on Wednesday.

President Francois Hollande, noting that France is assuming responsibility for the vast majority of Calais' migrants, has pushed Britain to take in more minors — both those who have family ties in Britain but also those who qualify for refuge based on the "best interest" of the child.

Read more on:    france  |  refugees

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