France under fire over abandoned Calais children

France under fire over abandoned Calais children
Human Rights Watch has criticised the French authorities for declaring "mission accomplished" despite scores of unaccompanied children being abandoned in a demolished and burned-out campsite
2 min read
28 October, 2016
Unaccompanied children were left behind after registration closed early [Getty]

Human Rights Watch has slammed French authorities who declared the Calais camp's closure was "mission accomplished" - despite hundreds of children being left behind.

Aid agencies in the "Jungle Camp" were outraged this week after registration for thousands of refugees closed early, leaving dozens of unaccompanied children to sleep rough in a burning campsite.

"In their rush to declare victory and pull out, local authorities in Calais marred what had been a generally peaceful operation," Benedicte Jeannerod, France director at HRW said.

"It is utterly unacceptable to leave people in the lurch at Calais who need protection."

The Pas-de-Calais prefect, Fabienne Buccio, declared, "mission accomplished", with France's interior ministry claiming all 5,600 residents had either been moved to centres elsewhere in the country or - in the case of unaccompanied children - registered and provided shelter in converted shipping containers, as bulldozers tore down tents and shacks.

But at least 100 unaccompanied children and hundreds of adults who had been waiting in line when authorities abruptly closed registration on Wednesday spent the night in the camp, where tents had been set alight.

HRW also found children had lined up before dawn to be registered but were sent away at the end of the day.

On Thursday, registration resumed for half an hour for the last remaining refugees, after pressure from aid groups.

But just before 5pm, riot police corralled those remaining, HRW said, including about 15 unaccompanied children, down a side street, with no word on what would happen to them.

Meanwhile, France has lashed out at the criticism of week-long Calais operation.

Home office minister Bernard Cazeneuve reacted to comments by his UK counterpart MP Amber Rudd and sought to remind London of its responsibilities.

Rudd had spoken to Cazeneuve "to stress the need for children who remain in Calais to be properly protected".

The French government said Cazeneuve had "learned with surprise" of Rudd's criticism, adding: "The French ministers hope ... the United Kingdom will quickly execute its responsibilities to take in these minors, who hope to come to the United Kingdom. This is the best way to give them the protection they are due."