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First Refugee Children Arrive In The UK From Calais "Jungle" Camp

The 14 children are among roughly 100 who will be reunited with their families in Britain as part of a fast-track registration scheme.

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Fourteen refugee children from the Calais migrant and refugee camp known as the "Jungle" will be reunited with their families in the UK on Monday.

The children, who arrived in Croydon this afternoon, are among roughly 100 accepted to the UK as part of a fast-track registration scheme.

However, they make up only a fraction of the total number of minors in the northern French camp, where conditions have steadily worsened ahead of the planned demolition of the site. Authorities had intended to destroy the settlement on Tuesday, but this may be delayed until next week, according to reports.

As many as 10,000 refugees and migrants – many from war-torn Syria, Afghanistan, and sub-Saharan nations – are caught in limbo in the makeshift camp.

Of those, the Help Refugees charity estimates 387 unaccompanied children in the "Jungle" have a legal right to be in the UK. Other charities suggest the figure may be nearer 150. There are as many as 1,300 unaccompanied children in the camp, according to a census carried out by the French and UK government this year.

Many people have expressed outrage over the tiny number the UK is accepting.

Of the 10,000 refugees in Calais, it's nice to see we've found space for 14 children. https://t.co/6N5V9meei9

14 kids out of 10,000 people in the Calais refugee camp offered asylum is the best we can do?It's sad this is the best 'humanity' UK offers

UK taking in 14 refugee children today ❓❓ Up to 1000 unaccompanied children in Calais. 👀 Take all of them‼️FFS

The Home Office declined to confirm to BuzzFeed News exactly how many children were being accepted to the UK under the provision.

In a statement, a spokesperson said home secretary Amber Rudd's priority was to "ensure the safety and security of the children in the Calais camp".

They said: "When she met the French Interior Minister this week, she made it crystal-clear that we intend to transfer as many minors as possible who qualify for transfer to the UK to claim asylum on the basis of close family in the UK under the Dublin Regulation, before the start of the clearance."

Under European Union regulations, unaccompanied children have a legal right to seek asylum in a country other than the first one they land in, if they have relatives in that country.

A spokesperson from Help Refugees told BuzzFeed News that although they were "delighted" some children were starting to arrive, they wanted to see children who qualified under the Alf Dubs amendment also brought to safety.

The House of Lords passed the Alf Dubs amendment in May. It said the UK would also take “vulnerable unaccompanied child refugees" who had arrived in Europe before the controversial Turkey–EU deal.

The Help Refugees spokesperson said: "We also need assurances that the children who will be remaining in France will be provided protection before the demolition."

It comes shortly after court documents revealed that the UK government continues to stall on provisions for unaccompanied child refugees ahead of the Jungle's imminent demolition, and is instead relying on the efforts of voluntary organisations.

Citizens UK, a coalition of charitable organisations based in the UK, said many of the children who had previously been reunited with their families were reunited by charitable – not official – efforts.

The children will be reunited with their families in churches in Croydon, where they must register with the Home Office.

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The former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is among several religious leaders welcoming the children. The former leader of the Church of England has been prominent in speaking out for child refugees, telling BBC Radio 4's Today that Britain had "a basic moral imperative" to help the children in the camps.

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Rose Troup Buchanan is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Rose Troup Buchanan at Rose.Buchanan@BuzzFeed.com.

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