UN Child Rights Convention broken daily in Calais, says aid group.

Siddique (not his real name) is a 14-year-old Afghan migrant who camps out in a woodland clearing in Calais, northern France. Along with nearly 250 other unaccompanied minors, he lives on the streets without proper access to food, water and shelter.

In an interview with German DW news agency, Siddique said he left his home in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province two years ago when Taliban fighters killed his father and brother. He has since taken the perilous journey through Iran, Turkey, the Balkans and Germany, to arrive in France.

Now, he and four other Afghan child migrants form a group, which he affectionately calls the “Bambinos”. Without any money, these children rely entirely on aid agencies for food, blankets, clothes, tents and firewood.

The French government is legally obliged to provide emergency housing for unaccompanied minors in Calais. However, according to the Refugee Youth Services (RYS) in an interview with DW, facilities are full and there is lack of political will to provide more beds. RYS said 580 unaccompanied children requested for accommodation in Calais in 2018, but regional authorities turned down 270 of those applications, including at least one child with disabilities.

“When minors arrive in Calais, they have already experienced great suffering,” says Jeremie Rochas, a former social worker at the RYS told DW. “Almost all of them testify to having been victims of aggression and torture during their migratory journeys, particularly if they travelled through Libya. Then in Calais they face extreme living conditions and a lack of future prospects which leads to despair.”

Help Refugees, which documents human rights abuses against migrants, said their records show police subjecting migrants including children with physical and psychological abuse. Their 244 cases detail abuse such as frequent demolition of tents, seizing of possessions, random beatings and attacks by police dogs. Aid group Utopia56 and RYS said at least 10 children required medical assistance between June and December 2018 due to police violence.

“Minors receive equal levels of discrimination, racial profiling and are subjected to the same rates of police violence as the older communities here in Calais,” said Maddy Allen, field manager for Help Refugees in northern France. “The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is broken daily, with European governments shirking responsibility for protecting these highly vulnerable children.”

TMP – 30/01/2019

Photo Credit: DW. Around 250 unaccompanied minors are camped out in freezing temperatures on the northern coast of France.