Calais Child Refugees Mount Legal Challenge After Being Refused Asylum In Britain
Thirty-six children, 11 of whom are 14 years old, have launched a legal bid after their applications for asylum in the UK were rejected following the clearout of the Calais camp.
Scores of unaccompanied child refugees in France have launched a legal challenge against the British government's decision to reject their asylum applications.
The 28 children, previously living in the makeshift camp on the French coast known as the Calais Jungle, are asking for a written explanation as to why the Home Office judged it was not in their "best interests" to be relocated in the UK.
They are seeking a judicial review in the High Court early in the new year.
In October, thousands of refugees and migrants were forcibly removed from the camp before local authorities in France bulldozed the tents and temporary settlements that had been home to refugees from Afghanistan, Syria, and Eritrea among others.
Authorities made provisions to resettle the children of the camp, with the UK accepting 750 children, 200 under the Dubs Amendment, following extensive interviews with the 1,900 children in Calais. Some controversy has erupted over the decision to relocate them to the UK.
Jamie Bell, a trainee solicitor with legal firm Duncan Lewis, who is representing the 28 children, including eight who are waiting to hear a ruling on their applications, called the Home Office's decision to reject some of the applications "unfair and irrational".
Bell, who travelled to Calais to interview the children before they were moved out of the camp and into 15 reception centres around France, told BuzzFeed News the government's interpretation of the Dubs Amendment – passed earlier this year – was unnecessarily restrictive.
He warned that while conditions in the so-called Calais Jungle were "horrendous", the children were incredibly vulnerable having left the camp.
"We are remaining in the contact with them, we are reassuring them and keeping them updated, but it is very difficult,” Bell said. "In the Jungle there was a sort of community so they were protected, and there was a sense of hope. As they have moved away this hope has gone."
Bell, who spent almost a week with the children, said they were now "isolated and alone". He said many of the children, 11 of whom are 14 years old, had been left traumatised by their experiences of getting to Europe.
"What has to be remembered is the individual vulnerability of the children," he said, noting that many could be at risk from traffickers. "They are going to put themselves in danger."
In a statement, Labour's shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said it was "morally unacceptable that children are being left in a miserable limbo".
“Our priority must be to protect these children, many of whom have had to live through the very worst conditions and have lost all hope," she said.
The legal challenge follows a Human Rights Watch report criticising the government's handling of the relocation of children from the now-notorious Calais camp.
The report heavily criticised the "non-transparent and arbitrary" interview process. Having spoken to children whose asylum bids were rejected, despite having relatives in the UK, the organisation said the children’s mental health has suffered.
“I am very lonely here…. I am going to kill myself [if I cannot go],” one 17-year-old from Ethiopia told researchers.
A spokesperson for the Home Office told BuzzFeed News: “It would be inappropriate to comment on ongoing legal proceedings."