French authorites move final 1,500 minors from Calais camp

Children dispersed around France, possibly complicating proposal to bring 200 to Ireland

Unaccompanied migrant minors, from the demolished Jungle migrant camp in Calais, prepare to board a bus to travel to reception centres around France on Wednesday morning. Photograph:   Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images

Unaccompanied migrant minors, from the demolished Jungle migrant camp in Calais, prepare to board a bus to travel to reception centres around France on Wednesday morning. Photograph: Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images

 

French authorities on Wednesday morning began moving 1,500 unaccompanied minors from a temporary centre next to the now demolished Calais “Jungle”, as the Dáil prepared to debate a proposal to bring 200 of them to Ireland.

Thirty buses with a capacity of 50 passengers each were dispatched to Calais to transport the children to 60 centres across France, created specially for minors since last week, the prefecture of Calais said. The evacuation was expected to be completed on Wednesday.

It was not clear what effect the departure of the children from Calais would have on the Dáil debate, though their dispersal across France could complicate attempts to bring them to Ireland.

The first bus left for Carcassonne and Bolquère in the Pyrénées-Orientales department; the second for Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in the Bouches-du-Rhône.

French officials denied reports that children were still sleeping rough in the area of the former shanty town.

A fight broke out between some 100 Eritrean and Afghan minors in the southern part of the former camp on Tuesday evening. Security forces intervened immediately to separate them, and maintained a strong presence overnight in the temporary centre.

The children are not allowed to choose their destination within France, but they can decide to travel with friends.

The vast majority want to go to the UK. Their applications will be studied by British officials in the new centres.

“No further applications for transfer to the United Kingdom will be considered in Calais,” said a document distributed among the minors by the prefecture. “Follow-up on cases and departures for the UK will take place at the centres for minors. Everyone will have a seat in a bus.”

The prefecture said British officials will “accompany” the minors on the journey from Calais to the new centres.

After Wednesday, some 380 women and children housed in the Jules-Ferry centre, adjacent to the former camp, will be the last remaining migrant residents.

Minors who are not accepted by Britain will be taken care of by French social services, President Francois Hollande said in an interview published on Tuesday. But approximately half of those moved to the new centres for minors since last week have already “evaporated”, said Pierre Henry, the director of the France Terre d’Asile association. “They want to go back to Calais,” he said, calling the situation “inextricable”.