Earlier this year, President Hollande vowed to dismantle the refugee camp in Calais by the end of 2016.
In January, French authorities bulldozed one third of the camp, leaving thousands homeless with no where to go, including 129 children who went missing completely – sex trafficking being one of the likely outcomes for them.
But rumours suggest the camp will actually be cleared much sooner – by October 31, 2016 – as it is illegal to evict anyone during Winter in France. Winter officially begins on November 1.
According to the latest figures, there are currently 1022 unaccompanied children living in the Calais Jungle. The youngest is just eight years old and most of them are boys. Some of them are eligible to live here in the UK, some due to family ties, others due to the Dubs Amendment, which allows unaccompanied minors refuge. The Home Office already has their details, yet so far, none of them have been offered sanctuary on British shores.
“Volunteers complain that France and Britain are playing “ping-pong” with the children’s lives, sending documents back and forth but not furthering claims.
Raheemullah Oryakhel, the 14-year-old Afghan boy who was killed last month after falling off a lorry, had a legal right to join his brother in Manchester but had reportedly lost faith that it would happen.”
Depression and self-harm incidents are increasing as the mental health of these children deteriorates. “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.” [Mark Townsend, The Guardian]. Some have talked about killing themselves, others burn themselves methodically with cigarettes.
Rosamund Urwin visited the camps last week and spoke to some of the unaccompanied children. One thirteen year old boy is completely alone. He believes his family are in Afghanistan but has lost contact with them. She wrote:
“He says he used to like cricket but “I don’t play games now — our job here is to think.”…His dream is “to have the best education and become an engineer” — you can see the lure of building something concrete, when everything around him is tarpaulin and fragile.”
As a mother myself, but to be honest, as simply a human being, I read these accounts and I’m horrified, appalled, devastated, disgusted, dismayed. As I type this blog post, I am crying. How have we let things get this bad? How have we waited so long to help?
If these were British children, even French or Italian or German children, would we turn a blind eye?
Hell. I’m going to come out and say what we’re not supposed to say: If they were white and Western would people care more?
In the words of Stella Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow,
“We’re building walls and children are sleeping in tents.”
This is inhumane. We are leaving these children out in the cold with no future and no hope.
One person who is trying to change that is Max.
He’s been working in the Calais Jungle since August in a makeshift school. He and his cohorts are trying to raise urgent funds to cover the critical needs of these children in advance of the bulldozing of the camp. It’s thought eviction will begin before the end of this month (October 2016), most likely within the next week or so.
The French and British authorities are letting these children down. There is no plan in place to help them, or to transport them to safety. So Max is hoping to buy them each a mobile phone, with credit, so they can at least call the emergency services if they need to and send their location via GPS.
He also hopes to equip each child with a solid pair of shoes and a backpack to carry the few belongings they have. The cost of this bundle is £65.
Overall, they need to raise £10,000 in the next couple of weeks to help the 1000 children in their care before it’s too late.
As I wipe my tears, I beg you not to forget about these children. Don’t do what we always do – feel for them in the moment, write a tweet it a Facebook status and forget two minutes later.
Instead, please click here and donate whatever you care to this urgent cause, no matter how little it may be. If every reader gave just £1, we could fund multiple packs for multiple children between us.
If you were separated from your child during a war, wouldn’t you hope above all els that someone would be looking out for them?
Please. Give a child a fighting chance.
Watch this short video for more links and four simple ways you can help support the Refugee Crisis: