Unicef urges UK government to speed up transfer of unaccompanied child refugees as Calais camp closes

UNICEF UK ha chiesto al governo del Regno Unito di permettere ai minori non accompagnati attualmente bloccati nella Jungle di Calais di potersi ricongiungere con i propri familiare o di poter entrare in Inghilterra in maniera legale. Inoltre, tutte le organizzazioni umanitarie operanti nel campo di Calais denunciano episodi di autolesionismo e depressione tra i bambini che aumentano con il prossimo smantellamento del sito. Abdul Afzali, che lavora per Refugee Youth Service e si prende cura dei minori non accompagnati all'interno del campo di Calais, ha dichiarato: "Alcuni si stanno bruciando con le sigarette, un braccio, poi l'altro. Altri mi hanno detto che vogliono saltare davanti a un camion e rinunciare. Purtroppo, la maggior parte hanno sviluppato grave depressione. "
Di seguito gli articoli tratti dall'Independent e dal Guardian

Child refugees at Calais plunged into despair by plan to close camp
Incidents of self-harm and depression among children in the Calais refugee camp are increasing as the mental health of unaccompanied minors deteriorates in advance of the site’s demolition. Charities, volunteers and aid agencies say they were witnessing psychological collapse among many of the site’s child refugees after President François Hollande confirmed last week that the camp would be shut down.
One senior official from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warned that some child refugees had threatened to harm themselves if the camp was destroyed. Aid workers also said other unaccompanied minors, many of whom are eligible to claim asylum in the UK, had talked about killing themselves, such was their despair over the camp’s future.
Abdul Afzali, who works for the charity Refugee Youth Service and looks after unaccompanied minors inside the Calais camp, said: “Some are burning themselves with cigarettes, one arm, then the other. Others have told me that they want to jump in front of a lorry and give up. Unfortunately, most have developed serious depression.”
There are at least 1,000 unaccompanied minors currently in the camp, and the British and French authorities have yet to develop a strategy to rehouse the vast majority of them after the site is destroyed later this year.
The approach of the Home Office is under increasing scrutiny. Despite a commitment in May to take thousands of child refugees from across Europe, it has admitted that not a single unaccompanied minor has been accepted. A group of Tory MPs is understood to have written to the prime minister, Theresa May, to register their concern.
Under a separate agreement designed to reunite child refugees with families living in the UK, only around 20 have been resettled since May and in these cases, charities say they have paid all the costs involved. The Home Office says it is committed to resettling “vulnerable children”.
Within the Calais camp itself, Liz Clegg, who runs the site’s unofficial women and children’s centre, said that from her observations, as many as 80% of the site’s unaccompanied minors exhibited mental health issues that would be flagged up as serious in an institution where normal child protection safeguards existed.
“They would be flagged up as ‘at risk’ – some would be placed on suicide watch. There is self-harming, repetitive behaviour; many of them are stuck in a loop. We have nine-year-olds who are barely hanging on,” said Clegg.
Grégoire Bonhomme of MSF, which has created a safe space for child refugees within the camp, said he too had heard of children threatening to hurt themselves when the camp was demolished. “Some said they will harm themselves because they will be dismayed at this situation. It is creating a lot of tension.”
However, Bonhomme also said that there was also a refusal among a cohort of child refugees to believe that the camp, which currently has a record population of more than 10,000, would be demolished. He said: “Many of them say: ‘It won’t happen, no one will arrest us, and if we want to go we’ll find a way [to the UK].’”Alexander Simmons, a volunteer for charity Care4Calais, confirmed it was monitoring “quite critical mental health issues” among a number of child refugees in the camp and that the longer they spent in the camp, the more vulnerable they became. He also lamented the fact that there was no record of the extent of the problem. The camp is not officially recognised by the authorities and no official mental health assessments have been conducted among its children.
Mary Jones, who runs Jungle Books for the camp’s child refugees, revealed that she had repeatedly seen new arrivals gradually go from initial optimism to a depressed state; some youngsters lay in bed for days. Simmons said that on Thursday an Afghan boy was taken from the camp to hospital after spending 48 hours lying in bed, unable to move.
On Saturday the charity Unicef became the latest organisation to criticise the Home Office over its approach to unaccompanied child refugees, demanding that the UK accelerate the transfer of vulnerable youngsters from Calais. Lily Caprani, Unicef UK’s deputy executive director, said it was pushing for the children in the camp to be placed in appropriate accommodation before any demolition began and for them to have access to care and legal support to process their asylum and family reunion claims. “The children in Calais need to know they will be safe before the bulldozers arrive,” said Caprani.
Charities estimate there are more than 400 unaccompanied children inside the camp who are eligible to come to Britain, but say the Home Office has not sufficiently tried to identify the exact number. More than four months after the UK government announced that it would accept child refugees from across Europe, the charities point out, no official process appears to have even been put in place to facilitate their transfer.
Josie Naughton, co-founder of the charity Help Refugees, said: “Currently no plan is in place as to how they will be protected and taken care of once the camp is demolished. We ask that the British and French authorities immediately put plans in place.”
Also on Saturday, French police fired teargas and water cannon at migrants and protesters who had gathered outside the camp in defiance of a ban, local authorities said. About 200 migrants and 50 activists assembled under a bridge to protest against living conditions. There were clashes as the police pushed the migrants back to the camp, and activists are reported to have thrown stones at the security forces.
Another 150 protesters who left Paris on Saturday on four coaches were blocked by police at a toll road about 30 miles (48 km) short of the port.
Teenage voices from Calais: ‘There is too much fighting’
Idrissa, 17, from Darfur, SudanIdrissa has been in the camp since February and is hoping to be reunited with his uncle in Birmingham. Since leaving Darfur last year, he has lost contact with his entire family and has no idea where they are, or even if they are alive: “I have tried calling, but I have no idea what has happened to them.” The teenager’s only ambition is to reach the UK. Waiting in the Calais camp has been a grim and depressing experience. “There is too much violence here. We feel afraid,” he says, gesturing to a group of unaccompanied youngsters nearby.
Yemani, 15, from Tsorona, EritreaYemani has been in the Calais camp for three months and is hoping to be reunited with his aunt, who lives in London. He is travelling alone and says that life inside the camp scares him: “There is too much fighting, people hitting each other. Bigger people than me hit me.” The teenager also says that the French police terrify him, pointing to a used teargas canister lying in the dirt outside a tent where some of the unaccompanied minors gather.
“They hit us, and fire at us,” he says, rubbing his eyes to mimic the pain.
Fadl, 17, from western SudanFadl arrived in the Calais camp four weeks ago, the end of a journey from close to the Darfur border via Libya, across the Mediterranean and through Italy. His aim is to reach London and find a job as a mechanic. He says that he is petrified of the camp, especially at night, and has sought the protection of Sudanese elders to keep him safe. “There are big problems here, people fighting, coming to the tents and scaring us,” he says. He thanks the charities for providing sustenance and says he is “extremely grateful” for their kindness.
Mubarek, 16, from EthiopiaA member of the persecuted Oromo people, Mubarek, who arrived in Calais three months ago, says his family are counting on him making it to the UK. Like many unaccompanied minors, he felt unsafe in the camp. “It is dangerous. Also, the police come in and scare us. If they try and shut the camp, they will be very bad,” he said. Mubarek raises his his hands and waves them frantically, recalling the terrors of his journey from northern Ethiopia: “I try not to think about it,” he says. The Guardian - Mark Townsend and agencies

Unicef urges UK government to speed up transfer of unaccompanied child refugees as Calais camp closes
Unicef has called on the UK government to allow unaccompanied child refugees currently stranded in the Calais migrant camp to come to Britain.
The organisation said it was concerned about the planned closure of the camp, known as the 'Jungle', saying it may lead to children disappearing before they can be processed.
Charities estimate there are around 400 unaccompanied children living there who are eligible to come to Britain.
Lily Caprani, the deputy executive director of Unicef UK, the UN body’s charitable arm in the country, told the BBC: "Last time part of the Jungle camp was demolished, hundreds of children went missing. We don't know what happened to them."
Despite this French President Francois Hollandevowed to have cleared the camp by the end of the year during a visit to the Jungle on Monday.All of the camp’s estimated 10,000 residents will be forced to move to reception centres across the country.
Mr Hollande is under intense pressure to mitigate the rising tide of anti-refugee feeling and Islamophobia ahead of the French presidential election next year.Far-right leader Marine Le Pen looks poised to at least make the run-off to become president and has vowed to stop France accepting anymore refugees.
The UK Government has also come under increasing pressure to take in the unaccompanied children.
On the first anniversary of the death of Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy who was found dead on a Turkish beach, last month, migrant rights charity Citizens UK handed in a letter signed by several celebrities including Juliet Stevenson and Vanessa Redgrave calling on Home Secretary Amber Rudd to accept them.
Fewer than 20 children were granted asylum in the UK in the first three months of the year.Lord Alfred Dubs, the peer who helped force the Government to accept an amendment to the Immigration Act which requires the UK to accept lone minors, said “deeply saddened” the Government was still “dragging its feet”.
Lord Dubs, who was himself a child refugee who came to the UK during the Kindertransport in 1939, said: “Now that the new Government has had some weeks to settle in after the EU referendum vote there really is no excuse for any further delay. Theresa May and Amber Rudd should be taking immediate action.”
Unicef is concerned that the children may fall into the hands of traffickers who may exploit them.
In September, The Independent revealed the Home Office does not know where 360 of the vulnerable children who have already arrived in the UK are. Of these, 81 have been missing for more than five years.
Over the past five years, 9,287 “unaccompanied minor” asylum seekers have been arrived in the UK.
A spokesman for the Home Office told The Independent the Government remained committed to resettling “vulnerable children” but said the closure of the camp was “a matter for the French government”.
He said: “The UK Government has made crystal clear its commitment to resettle vulnerable children under the Immigration Act and ensure those with links to the UK are brought here using the Dublin Regulation.
“We will also continue to support the French Government as it provides alternative accommodation to migrants in the camps and returns those not in need of protection to their home countries. The Independent Caroline Mortimer


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