Six young people arrive in Ireland from Calais Jungle
Teenage boys from Syria, Sudan and Eritrea among unaccompanied minors settling here
A child at the Calais Jungle: so far 25 unaccompanied minors from the camp in Calais have come here since the Government committed, in November, to take 200 young people. File photograph: PA
So far 25 unaccompanied minors from the makeshift camp on the outskirts of Calais have come here since the Government committed in November to take 200 such young people. The 25 includes the four who arrived on Friday. Four unaccompanied young people have also come from Greek camps. Each teenager lives in small residential units supported by Tusla.
However significant concerns remain about some minors due to resettle here, who have fallen out of the French legal and accommodation systems. Some 1,400 unaccompanied minors, some as young as six, accompanied by older siblings, were dispersed to centres around France following the authorities’ demolition of the “Jungle” last October.
They were offered the choice of applying for asylum in France, or seeking entry to Britain or Ireland. However many left the centres in the hope of getting back to Calais and on to England, while others had to leave because their centres closed. Some of these were holiday centres whose owners wanted vacant possession by February .
Some of these minors had been identified by Irish volunteers in the Not On Our Watch campaign as particularly vulnerable and in need of resettlement here. The campaign submitted 40 names to be included among the 200.
Tusla social workers have been visiting centres around France to identify other minors suitable for resettlement in Ireland.
Caoimhe Butterly, a volunteer from Beyond Borders, who has worked with young people in Calais and Paris, identified Ismael, a 17-year-old from Darfur in Sudan, who had been in Calais and now sleeps under a bridge in Paris.
“After his parents were killed during a Janjaweed [militia in Sudan and Chad] raid on his village compound when he was 12, his grandmother raised him. When she died two years later, he made the journey overland to Libya, where he endured abuse, extortion, forced labour and detention by various militias,” she said.
He crossed the Mediterranean and walked most of the way from Italy to Calais.
“His name was submitted by volunteers to be considered for possible inclusion amongst the Calais youth being relocated here.” But then his centre closed.
“He has fallen through the cracks of yet another system. He, and other unaccompanied children, are resilient but also deeply vulnerable, and the conditions they’re living through are getting more precarious.”
She said Ismael had no money, little access to food or clean water and had nowhere to wash. He was vulnerable to exploitation.
The young people who have arrived would be reunited with family where possible, said a Tusla spokeswoman, while others would stay in the small centres. Each is allocated a social worker and will be assessed for health, education and supports needs.
Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said: “Warlords, terrorists and thugs have put children in the frontline of this crisis. Young people have been bombed, gassed and forced to flee across continents and oceans to safety. Ireland has a duty to respond,” she said.
“Children who have become separated from or have lost their families are particularly vulnerable,” she said. “Responding to their needs is a priority for my department,” she said.