Three years ago, a Calais eviction left 129 children unaccounted for. Where are they now?

On the last day of February in 2016, the eviction of the southern half of the Calais “Jungle” began and residents were evicted. Authorities had said that there were only 800-1,000 people living in the south, so that’s how many accommodation spaces were made available.

Our team on the ground knew that in reality the number was much higher. Two weeks earlier, Help Refugees volunteers had counted 5,497 people, including 651 children – 423 of whom were unaccompanied – in the camp. Over half of these were in the south.

Associations in Calais warned authorities that children would go missing in an eviction without adequate safeguarding measures. In the census after the eviction, volunteers found that 129 unaccompanied minors were unaccounted for.

In the months that followed some of these minors returned to northern France, and our partners were able to track a small number of them down and offer their support. For the most part, though, we don’t know what happened. Many of them will have been at huge risk of exploitation and trafficking. Many will have joined the reported 10,000 missing unaccompanied children in Europe.

Today there are more than 150 unaccompanied minors in northern France, living in flimsy tents, on the streets, under bridges and in forests. They wait for the UK government to provide the legal routes it promised them. Instead of legal routes, they have been given more walls, fences and barbed wire.

Slow, inefficient and unfair

Under the Dubs Amendment, many of these kids have been eligible for transfer to the UK for nearly three years. If proper systems of support had been put in place by the French and UK governments, those children could now be living in safety.

An incomprehensibly slow, inefficient and unfair asylum system has left thousands of children living in limbo. In the time it’s taken for the Home Office to start the process of filling the 480 spaces it has committed to,  hundreds more have gone missing.

As February temperatures hit new highs in the UK, it’s easy to forget about the threatening cold of a winter’s night. It is still winter, though, and children are still homeless and ignored. We can’t let another year go by while they remain in this condition.

What can you do to help?

If you have one minute you can write to your MP:

To ask them to ensure the spaces available to unaccompanied minors under the Dubs scheme in their constituency are filled as soon as possible. You can use our template here – it only takes 30 seconds!

If you have one day you can arrange a meeting with your MP:

To speak face-to-face with your representative regarding the situation in Calais and the conditions these children are living in. Ask them to confirm their commitment to bringing them to the UK and to offering spaces in their constituency, as well as to bringing up the issue in Parliament.

If you have one week (or longer) you can head to Calais to volunteer:

While they are waiting to be offered the protection to which they are legally entitled, these kids – as well as the many adults sleeping rough in and around Calais – need support from people like you. Head over to the volunteering section of our website or drop us an email via contact@helprefugees.org to find out more about how you can help.

Photo: Beatrice Lily Lorigan/ Refugee Info Bus

Read more


A new report, launched in the House of Lords today by Baroness Butler-Sloss and Rt Hon Fiona Mactaggart, confirmed that the failure of the British and French governments to protect child refugees, and offer safe passage is “unquestionably” fuelling exploitative smuggling and trafficking by organised crime groups.

Thank you to the Inquiry chairs and to the Human Trafficking Foundation who invited Help Refugees to give evidence for this report.

Launching the report, Rt Hon Fiona Mactaggard said “The UK government are colluding to the torture of children in France if they keep using British taxpayer money to pay French Police to brutalise unaccompanied children under the guise of border security agreements⁠⁠⁠⁠”

The UK Children’s Commissioner Ann Longfield also stated that the Home Office actions of abandoning children in Calais is against their most basic needs and best interests: “Clearly being left in the middle of Calais is failing on virtually every front there is”.

We cannot stand by and let this happen. Children are effectively hunted in Calais and the UK government is doing nothing to protect them.

Right now there are 200 children on their own in Calais sleeping rough and facing police violence. There are thousands more in Greece and Italy and no effort is being made to identify them and take them to safety.

The only way we can keep these children fed, hydrated, and warm enough in the night to sleep is through your support. Please help us help them by donating here: http://bit.ly/HelpRefugeesDonate

You can read the full report here.

Read more



Last year Amber Rudd and our government stepped up, momentarily, and committed to the Dubs Amendment. A bill offering refuge and a future to the most vulnerable unaccompanied refugee children in Europe.

The Home Office committed to talking to local councils to find out how many children we had the capacity to help. But when the consultation was done, local councils said the process was “chaotic”, “wholly inadequate”, “incorrect and incompetent” and “cursory to the point [they] didn’t even recognise what it was”.

What was the result?

The result… a cap far lower than that of Britain’s total capacity.

The government failed to do their job fairly and responsibly, and let down refugee children in Europe and the British public.

Because of the closure, thousands of unaccompanied children have been left to fend for themselves, vulnerable to abuse and trafficking.

As we wait for the decision from the High Court, we’re calling for donations to help the children who wait with us.

Please donate if you believe Britain can do more to help child refugees in Europe.

You can find out more about Help Refugees’ advocacy over the Dubs Amendment and our court case with the Home Office here.

Read more