1253 GMT December 09, 2022
An excerpt from a research by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) indicates that young refugees in infamous refugee camps in the northern French ports of Calais and Dunkirk, suffer a disturbing range of abuses at the hands of traffickers.
The research is due to be published in full on Thursday.
According to the report, children, most of them from Syria and Libya, told the researchers that human traffickers force them to work tirelessly and commit crimes such as opening lorry doors to enable adults to be smuggled across the Channel to Britain.
A 16-year old Syrian boy, who was stuck in France without his family for seven months, said “the worst part of my journey was being in Calais because most people there were subjected to violence and humiliation.”
“Every day people would try to find ways of leaving. My friends and I tried to get on a train to get away– I saw two friends die under that train,” he was quoted as saying.
The Calais camp is known as the “Jungle” due to the appalling living conditions of asylum seekers there.
Thousands of refugees are massed in the “Jungle,” some for months, as they try to cross the Channel to reach Britain.
British Home Secretary Theresa May is expected to face questions from lawmakers on Monday to describe the progress made on the government’s promise to fast-track the process of taking in unaccompanied child refugees.
Last month, Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to speed up family reunification, but the government has said it could take up to seven months to receive the first children.
Citizens UK, a charity that works to resettle refugees, says only 150 children in Calais have the right to enter Britain because they have families in the country.
It estimates that at the current rate it would take a year for all 150 to be reunited with their families.
Meanwhile, a number of Syrian children recently reunified with their families in Britain have written an open letter, which is also backed by UNICED, to the UK government, calling on London to take their “friends out of danger.”
The children, who described themselves as the lucky ones, wrote that they will never forget the “horrific months” they spent in northern France or the friends they have left behind.
UNICEF’s UK deputy executive director, Lily Caprani, also criticized the UK government for “moving far too slowly” in bringing unaccompanied children to the country.
“I’ve met some of the unaccompanied children in Calais and have seen the terrible conditions they are living in,” said Caprani.
“By taking immediate action for these children, the government can take a crucial first step to show it is serious about its recent commitments to refugee children,” the UNICEF official added.
Help Refugees, another UK charity for refugees, said in April that 129 unaccompanied people had gone missing from the “Jungle” shortly after French police demolished the southern part of the camp in March.
Police forcibly evicted thousands of people from the site using tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon.
Currently, there are around 4,946 at the Calais refugee camp, around 500 of whom are children.
Reports said in March that more than three quarters of refugees and asylum seekers living in the Calais refugee camp had been subject to mistreatment at the hands of French police.