With the shutdown and eviction of the Calais camp for migrants and refugees, concerns remain for the estimated 1000-1290 unaccompanied children thought to have been living in the camp. The French government has said that refugees have been moved to asylum processing centres dotted around France. However there are not yet enough spaces in the centres and actors on the ground have just reported that 100 unaccompanied children have been left with nowhere to sleep. Reports suggest that many children are desperate to be registered while registration services have come to a halt.
“Without appropriate measures, we can expect that unaccompanied children who have no place to go will continue to go missing, risk falling prey to trafficking networks and being trapped in a situation of exploitation while on EU soil,” says Missing Children Europe, an NGO active to protect and help exploited children in Europe.
At least 129 children have already gone missing following a partial eviction of the Calais site in February. Many of these children simply see no other option than trusting smugglers to take them across to the UK in the back of freezer trucks or worse.
“We are indeed very worried, as these children have already lived through very traumatic experiences before getting to Calais, which often results in PTSD and mental health problems. The inhuman situation in which they are living and the lack of immediate action of authorities to comply with their legal obligations are unacceptable.” says Delphine Moralis, Secretary General of Missing Children Europe.
Hotlines for missing children operated through the 116 000 number across Europe including in Belgium, France and the UK and coordinated by Missing Children Europe have stepped up efforts to respond to migrant children who call the hotline in need of support. Practical guidance on preventing and responding to the disappearance of children in migration were also published earlier this year by the organisation.