France, UK "fell short" over children in "Jungle" camp closure

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The so-called “Jungle” camp of Calais in northern France, ahead of its closure by the authorities. Photo: UNHCR/Olivier Laban-Mattei

France and the UK "fell seriously short" in their handling of unaccompanied children who were forced to leave the so-called “Jungle” camp for migrants in Calais.

That's the assertion made on Wednesday by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which examines how Member States live up to their obligations to children under international law.

It was reported earlier on Wednesday that the last children have now been bussed out of the camp.

They're to be taken to reception centres around France.

Daniel Johnson has more.

Rights experts meeting at the UN in Geneva were critical of both the French and UK governments for the way they handled children when closing the makeshift camp.

Before the so-called Jungle was flattened, it was home to more than 6,000 people, including more than 1,000 unaccompanied minors.

Appalling living conditions and security concerns at the camp had long been criticized by humanitarian workers, who supported calls for its closure.

Highlighting "disagreements" between Paris and London over who was responsible for the children, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child said that "political … considerations (had) prevailed" over earlier promises by both countries that unaccompanied youngsters were their priority.

This led to hundreds of children being forced to sleep out in the open or in disused shipping containers, without adequate food, medical services and psychological support.

In some cases, youngsters were also exposed to smugglers and traffickers, the Committee said in a statement.

Neither London nor Paris could say "they have been caught off-guard" by the Calais situation, the UN panel added, since it had made specific and recent recommendations on unaccompanied children to both governments earlier this year.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 1'14"




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