Britain needs to live up to its responsibilities on unaccompanied minors in Calais 'Jungle' camp, says France

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve speak to the press during a visit to the police station of Savigny-Sur-Orge in Paris on Oct 10, 2016.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve speak to the press during a visit to the police station of Savigny-Sur-Orge in Paris on Oct 10, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - Britain has a "moral duty" to take in hundreds of migrant children from the "Jungle" camp in Calais desperate to cross the Channel, France said on Monday (Oct 10), with the site apparently facing the bulldozer just days from now.

"I am solemnly asking Britain to assume its moral duty," Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told RTL radio ahead of talks in London with British counterpart Amber Rudd.

"There are several hundred unaccompanied minors in Calais who have family in Britain. We are in the process of drawing up a precise list and the British need to live up to their responsibilities. We have lived up to ours," stressed the minister.

French officials have said that work to dismantle the sprawling migrant camp in Calais could begin next week, with residents to be spread around reception centres across France.

The makeshift settlement has become a focal point in France of Europe's migrant crisis, disputed by politicians and now a constant source of tension with Britain.

Mr Cazeneuve said last week there were up to 950 children living in the "Jungle", many unaccompanied.

British campaigners stepped up pressure on both governments over the weekend.

The British Red Cross said 178 unaccompanied children in Calais had the right to claim asylum in Britain as they had family there, but that red tape was holding things up.

"We need urgent action from both the UK and French governments," said spokesman Alex Fraser as the group released a report on the problem on Sunday (Oct 9).

While both countries were working on the problem, "more can and must be done, on both sides of the Channel," he added.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the leader of Anglicans worldwide, was among signatories of an open letter calling for the children to be admitted.

The children "have fled conflict and persecution, are now stuck in northern France, deeply traumatised and at great risk", said the letter. "The time to act is now."

A number of other British religious leaders from different faiths also signed the letter, which was drawn up by the charity Citizens UK.

At a meeting last month in Paris, Ms Rudd and Mr Cazeneuve pledged a united front over the Jungle camp and cross-Channel security more generally.

Another migrant died this weekend in the Calais region, the 14th such death this year.

An Eritrean migrant died after being hit by a car on a motorway near Calais late on Sunday.

A second migrant slightly hurt in the accident was treated in Calais hospital, local officials said.

Migrants desperate to get to Britain regularly try to stow away on lorries heading to the Channel ports for the ferry crossing to England.