Calais camp: French and UK Governments fell far short of their child rights obligations

Date: 15th November 2016
Category: Refugee , migrant and asylum-seeking children

The Governments of France and the UK fell seriously short of their obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child in the way they handled the situation of children living at the Calais migrant camp, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has said.

The Committee, which monitors how States that have ratified the Convention, implement its provisions, called on France and the UK to urgently address the situation of unaccompanied children who had been forced to take shelter in disused shipping containers or sleep outside as the makeshift "Jungle" camp was demolished:

"The events of the past week have shown clearly that political and other considerations prevailed over the initial promises by both Governments that the situation of unaccompanied children would be their priority. The best interests of the child have been completely disregarded.

Disagreements between the French and UK Governments over who should take responsibility for the majority of these children have led to major violations of these children's rights. Hundreds of children have been subjected to inhumane living conditions, left without adequate shelter, food, medical services and psychosocial support, and in some cases exposed to smugglers and traffickers.

We welcome the announcement by the French authorities that the children are being relocated to dedicated centres where the next steps concerning their future will be decided. We call for this to be done as quickly as possible and in a child-centred manner to avoid further and possibly irreparable harm to the children's well-being.

The Governments of both countries cannot say they were caught off-guard by the Calais situation. When the Committee reviewed France and the UK earlier this year, both States were given precise recommendations regarding the treatment of unaccompanied child migrants, including those in Calais.

These recommendations included the need to stop the detention of asylum-seeking and migrant children; the need to conduct age assessments only in cases of serious doubt and when so, through multi-disciplinary and transparent procedures; and the obligation to respect children's right to humane living standards and adequate health care services.

The failures regarding the situation of children in Calais are not isolated events but highlight the shortcomings of a migration system built on policies that are neither developed nor implemented with child rights in mind.

It is essential that measures are taken to ensure that these children receive appropriate assistance to recover from what they have experienced. Responsibility for the violations of their rights should also be established with the aim of ensuring that other children do not have to suffer a similar fate."