British and French ‘ignoring’ obligations to child refugees

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Oct 11, 2017
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Authorities left children at risk in their rush to dismantle the Jungle outside Calais, a Bar committee said

Thibault Camus/AP

British ministers must lift the “arbitrary” cut-off date for applications from unaccompanied refugee children and increase the number it will accept under the Dubs amendment, lawyers said yesterday.

British and French authorities were accused of ignoring obligations under international law nearly a year after the so-called Jungle camp outside Calais was dismantled, a group of human rights barristers claimed.

A report from the Bar human rights committee claims that it documents “the subsequent failures by French and UK authorities to adequately protect and process the estimated 1,000 unaccompanied minors living in the camp”. The report is based on evidence it says was collected by a delegation led by Kirsty Brimelow, QC, the chairwoman of the committee and a tenant at Doughty Street chambers in London. Brimelow’s team claims to have witnessed the “arbitrary processing of children that prevailed during the dismantling of the Jungle”.

The report claims that in the rush to demolish the camp the French and British authorities “failed to take effective steps to safeguard the welfare and safety of unaccompanied children, leaving many at risk”. It also alleges that authorities from both countries failed to ensure that children had access to safe accommodation before the demolition began. 

According to the barristers, “children were subjected to a chaotic and unlawful age verification and registration process, based in some cases on physical appearance alone. The methods employed by officials were arbitrary and discriminatory without adequate attention to guidelines or proper processes”.

In the report the committee said the French and British should provide access to legal advice for the children, which would ensure the provision of written reasons for refusals. It also called for the removal of arbitrary cut-off dates for applications to the UK under the Dubs amendment and for review mechanisms to be put in place for refused applications.

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