French minister appeals directly to UK public over Calais child migrants

Calais Migrant Camps

Calais Migrant Camps

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has penned an opinion piece in the UK press urging Britain to step up its efforts to identify and resettle unaccompanied child migrants stranded in the Calais “Jungle” camp.

Cazeneuve’s article, published in The Guardian newspaper on Tuesday, comes just a day after more than a dozen teenagers were transferred to the UK from the sprawling camp, which the French government has vowed to shut down.

“(The) French government has now decided to dismantle the Calais camp for good,” Cazeneuve wrote, adding that neither London nor Paris wanted “to leave people with the right to refugee status in the cold and the mud – women and children least of all”.

The makeshift settlement in France’s northern port city is home to nearly 10,000 people who have mostly fled war and strife in countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Africa with the ultimate goal of reaching Britain.

It has become a focal point of Europe’s migrant crisis, the subject of heated debate among French politicians and a constant source of tension with Britain.

“The British government has pledged to help solve this crisis by taking in some unaccompanied minors, the vast majority of whom have expressed the wish to go to the UK,” Cazeneuve wrote.

“The UK government now needs to intensify this effort, so that every unaccompanied minor can benefit from fair, lasting protection. In the longer term, neither the UK nor France can abdicate our responsibilities regarding the migration crisis across our continent.”

Shared responsibility

The interior minister warned the “humanitarian operation must be supported by long-term measures aimed at making the border impenetrable at Calais and other Channel ports”.

He said that “thanks to the cooperation between our police services, 33 illegal immigration networks smuggling people into the UK have already been dismantled in France since the beginning of this year”.

His comments came as 14 unaccompanied teenagers who had been living in the Calais “Jungle” were reunited with relatives after being transferred to Britain on Monday, ahead of the demolition of the French migrant camp.

The children, who Britain said were aged between 14 and 17 and from countries including Syria and Sudan, are due to be followed by dozens more in the coming days.

They are entitled to move to Britain under EU law due to family ties with those already in the UK. But campaigners and faith leaders warned there were many more left behind who also deserved the country’s help.

In his article, Cazeneuve said Britain and France shared a special moral responsibility towards asylum seekers, because of their respective histories and standings in the world.

“The UK is the country that invented habeas corpus and France is the country that proclaimed the declaration of the rights of man and of the citizen,” he wrote.

“We also each exercise singular international responsibilities, stemming from our history, defence capabilities and status as permanent members of the UN Security Council.”