1,500 Refugee Children Left on Their Own in the Calais “Jungle”
In the Calais refugee camp known as “the Jungle,” 1,500 unaccompanied kids and teenagers are left roaming around on their own. As France and the UK are trying to decide who should do what, the kids are waiting impatiently. Without any adults around to supervise things or provide mental support and a sense of normalcy, many kids are confused, depressed, and frustrated. Boredom often leads to fights and there is often not enough food. The majority of the refugees are boys between 10 and 17 years old, who sleep in cold containers and don’t have drinking water except for when volunteers come to hand out bottles. But there are also around 30 unaccompanied girls, most under 15 but one as young as 12.
No one is allowed into these containers except for security police. But some volunteers work around the clock to provide the kids food–only one hot meal per day–and bottled water. Authorities have only handed out 20 passes in total for volunteers to enter the area, which is not enough considering the amount of help that is needed. Many volunteers hand the kids food through the fence instead.
— Refugee C Kitchen (@RefugeeCKitchen) October 30, 2016
“They’ve left them with no support whatsoever. They’ve just left these 1,500 kids since Friday and gone,” said volunteer Steve Bedlam. He also said the taps have been turned off and the only running water is in the toilets. “This has been confirmed by several of the kids. When we bring water in a truck it goes crazy. People are grabbing at it, like they want to get six bottles.”
Concerned about the children’s safety, the volunteers are now trying to keep some adults around outside of the camp all throughout the night. Lately they have been handing out food from 7 AM to 11 PM, and from the time they leave no grown ups have been present in the camp except for police. Bedlam said:
It’s dangerous. You’ve just literally got 1,500 kids going in and out, wandering around the old burnt out jungle as much as they want. There’s no control, no one stopping them leaving. Thank god for volunteers or it would literally be 1,500 kids sitting in a bombsite.
As winter gets closer and it gets cold, kids are asking the volunteers for shoes and blankets and when they can see their parents, who have often already arrived at their end destination. But there seems to be no information from authorities and no one really knows what is going on. If the kids are heading to other places in France or to the UK remains to be seen and many believe it is just a political problem that no one wants to take responsibility for. “There’s apparently some political system going on, but we have no idea what it is,” said Cecelia Bittner from volunteer organization Calais Kitchens.
— Elaine Pearson (@PearsonElaine) October 31, 2016
France’s president Francois Hollande reportedly phoned Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May on Sunday to ask her to accept more refugee children, which she declined, saying that the UK already had accepted a “considerable number of unaccompanied minors.” The main problem and the most upsetting issue for the volunteers present in Calais is that both the French and British governments have just left these kids unaccompanied in a refugee camp without food and water, locked up and guarded by security police.
“The French government are basically leaving these kids and going ‘we’ve done our bit, come on do your bit’” said Bedlam. “But they’re messing with kids’ lives. It’s not fair. They’re pawns in a political game.”