In late October, French authorities razed the sprawling migrant camp in Calais, France – home to more than 1,000 unaccompanied migrant children who had no adult family members or guardians to help protect them. After pressure by humanitarian and human rights groups – Médécins sans Frontières, Save the Children, Help Refugees, and Refugee Youth Services, supported by Human Rights Watch – many children who lost their shelter were given a place to stay after the camp was bulldozed.
Human Rights Watch researcher Michael Garcia Bochenek spent two weeks interviewing these children before the camp’s destruction. On October 26 – authorities had begun relocating camp residents on October 24 – he found that French authorities had abruptly closed registration for people who needed shelter. In fact, they turned away hundreds of adults and at least 100 unaccompanied children who had been waiting in the registration line, leaving them unable to relocate to the alternative housing they had been promised.
Human Rights Watch advocates and other groups urged local authorities to reopen registration, and they finally agreed to provide additional buses on October 27 and 28, to transport most of the remaining adults and unaccompanied children to alternative accommodation elsewhere in France.
Despite these efforts, Human Rights Watch continued to receive reports over the weekend that followed that some unaccompanied children were sleeping in the rubble of the largely demolished camp, and that the more than 1,500 unaccompanied children who had been relocated to converted shipping containers in the middle of the camp lacked sufficient bedding, were dependent on volunteers for food, and received inadequate supervision.
On November 2, French authorities relocated all unaccompanied boys from the containers to some 60 centers located throughout the country.
Unaccompanied migrant children in France still need effective access to asylum procedures and long-term protection and care. We will continue to push for these critical needs.