Refugee Children Treated Like Flotsam And Jetsam
In a disturbing report, issued over the summer, Human Rights Watch reported that nearly a year after the closure of Calais’ Jungle between 400 and 500 asylum seekers and other migrants were living on the streets and woods in and around that northern French city.
With no place to eat or to sleep, and treated like detritus, flotsam and jetsam, Lord Roberts of Llanddudno, is right to have raised the situation again in Parliament, shining a light into this shameful situation.
I was particularly disturbed to read some of the interviews with more than 60 asylum seekers and migrants; to read repeated accounts of documented police abuse and harassment of aid workers – which HRW attributed to a desire to send a signal that this is the fate that awaits you if you risk fleeing from terror in countries like Eritrea and Sudan.
Scandalously, the reports included the routine use of pepper spray on child migrants while they are sleeping and the disruption of humanitarian assistance.
It is absurd for the Home Office to say this is merely a matter for the French – we have a duty to hammer out international solutions and to tackle root causes – not to shrug off our responsibility.
Such abuse of power is degrading and an affront to civilised standards. Vulnerable people need solutions not indifference.
Refugee Rights Data Project have just published a report that corroborates the HRW findings.
Their findings concerning children are a disgrace.
Of 700 displaced people in and around Calais 91.8% of respondents had experienced police violence. Of the children interviewed 98.9% a were unaccompanied, and 93.6% reported that they had been subject to police violence. 84.7% of respondents were lacking access to information about their rights and opportunities to change their situation.
39.1% of children said they have family elsewhere in Europe, the majority of whom were said to live in the UK.
Meanwhile, refugees and displaced people are sleeping rough in the area with 82.6% of children saying police had driven them away whilst sleeping – 89.2% described this incident as violent.
As I have told the House previously, Europol say that at least 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees have disappeared after arriving in Europe. Many are feared to have fallen into the hands of organised trafficking syndicates.
And what happens to those children who make it to the UK?
The Sunday Times reported on October 13, in a story entitled “Child trafficking victims vanish from council care and into the hands of criminals” that at least 150 Vietnamese children have disappeared from care since 2015. I sent the report to the Minister and as I have had no reply.
Our Modern Day Slavery and Trafficking legislation recognises that these scandals have no regard for national boundaries. But these stories make a mockery of the laws we have enacted.
I hope that, rather than passing the buck, the Minister will tell us how the Government intends to work with our partners to find urgent solutions and to put some hope into these vulnerable lost lives.