France relocates remaining ‘Jungle’ camp children
French authorities on Wednesday started shifting the remaining 1,500 unaccompanied children living next to the razed ‘Jungle’ migrant camp in Calais to shelters around the country. A first bus carrying 43 minors left the area around 8:30 am (0730 GMT) for the southwest, rapidly followed by a second one.
More than 30 buses have been deployed to transfer the minors to 60 centres nationwide.
The dismantling of the informal part of the camp that once housed up to 10,000 migrants, most of whom hoped to reach Britain, was completed on Monday night.
Over 4,000 adults who had been living in tents and shacks – mainly Afghans, Eritreans and Sudanese – were moved to reception centres across France last week, before the bulldozers moved in. That left nearly 1,500 underage migrants, who stayed behind in a secure container park run by an NGO, and around 400 women and children living in a separate care facility a few hundred metres away.
The plight of the unaccompanied children has been the subject of testy exchanges between France and Britain. France is hoping that Britain will take in most of the unaccompanied minors, who travelled alone across the Mediterranean and up through Europe, in the hope of stowing away on trucks crossing the Channel to England.
After initially dragging its heels on the issue, Britain in October expedited the transfer of children. In the past two weeks, it has taken in around 300 kids with family or contacts across the Channel and promised to take hundreds more. Some aid agencies have warned that scattering kids around France could hold up that process. French authorities have assured that the minors still be able to pursue their dream of Britain from the far-flung shelters to which they are sent.