Migrant kids left to wander the 'Jungle'

Children holding posters pleading for help at the Calais migrant camp on Wednesday. The posters read: "Please, please help us, we are children" and "We want to go to UK faster".
Children holding posters pleading for help at the Calais migrant camp on Wednesday. The posters read: "Please, please help us, we are children" and "We want to go to UK faster".PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Dozens sleep rough at burnt-out Calais camp as they await news of their fate

CALAIS • Dozens of migrants, including children, were left wandering through France's "Jungle" camp after sleeping rough on the edges of the burnt-out Calais settlement.

Excavators began tearing down remaining shelters yesterday, a day after the massive official operation to clear the camp of thousands of migrants came to a dramatic end, with fires started by the departing migrants ripping through the shanty town, causing many to flee without their possessions.

Migrants and officials alike said the fires in the camp had been set deliberately, and exploding gas cylinders used for cooking had caused the blazes to spread. Police said four migrants had been arrested on suspicion of arson.

Aid groups said that dozens of unaccompanied children had not been guaranteed a bed. "Unregistered minors are wandering around, lost, wondering where they will spend the night," said Dr Samuel Hanryon, a spokesman for Doctors Without Borders.

The Interior Ministry said nearly 5,600 migrants had been given shelter, either in centres around France or at a container park in the camp set aside for young people.

But about 100 young migrants hoping to be moved to Britain were still waiting to know their fate. The youths, who slept on the ground in the biting cold, gathered outside the hangar where migrants were registered over the past three days for relocation. But their path was barred by riot police, who said the centre had closed.

"I spent the entire night here," a young Afghan said. "I am in the queue for minors to go to England. I have family there."

"I slept here and not in the Jungle as it's too dangerous," said 16-year-old Abdelhadi, another Afghan. "The Jungle is finished."

The fate of unaccompanied minors is the source of a bitter blame game between Paris and London. Some 1,500 are being housed temporarily in the on-site park that is now full, according to the France Terre d'Asile group, which is responsible for their care.

"There is no more space in the container camp," said Mr Pierre Henry, the group's director.

He said 40 children were due to be transferred to Britain yesterday, adding to more than 200 who went there last week. Another 40 have been sent to a temporary centre in eastern France to await news on their cases.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has said that all minors "with proven family links in Britain" would eventually be transferred there.

The head of the French immigration office said 10 buses had been kept by the camp to take away the last of the migrants yesterday.

"It's our final offer," Mr Didier Leschi said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2016, with the headline 'Migrant kids left to wander the 'Jungle''. Print Edition | Subscribe