PARIS (Sputnik) – Four unaccompanied refugee minors have died in France’s northern town of Calais over the past two years due to months-long delays in the legal family reunification procedure after attempting to illegally cross the English Channel and reach the United Kingdom, Northern France regional manager for the UK charity Help Refugees told Sputnik on Thursday.
"In the past two years, four children, engaged in the legal process of [family] reunification died at the border, as often delays of nine months forced them to give up waiting and risk their lives again, trying to cross [the border] illegally. They were 13, 14, 15, and 17 years old," Annie Gavrilescu said.
The charity official called the EU Dublin 3 Regulations, outlining which EU countries would be responsible for considering a refugee's international protection application, "bureaucratic and cumbersome." Gavrilescu pointed to various flaws of the mechanism in France and the United Kingdom, such as the staff shortages and delays and mistakes in processing the applications.
"We hope the government is reminded of legal and moral obligations they have to child refugees," Gavrilescu noted, asked what outcome of the debate can be expected.
The activist urged the UK government to fill the remaining 280 places to accommodate unaccompanied refugees in the United Kingdom under the Dubs amendment. Also, family reunification procedures must be accelerated to prevent children from spending the winter without shelter in Calais, Gavrilescu said.
On Thursday, the UK House of Commons is holding a debate on a motion relating to Calais and unaccompanied child refugees in Europe. The motion calls for post-Brexit provisions to ensure that unaccompanied children in Europe would be able to continue to access the safe and legal means to reunite with family and relatives in the European Union as is currently provided for under the Dublin 3 Regulations.
Over a year ago, the Calais makeshift refugee camp was demolished in October 2016 resulting in displacements of thousands of refugees who had been living there. In December 2016, then-UK Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill said that over 750 refugee children have arrived in the United Kingdom from Calais. According to Help Refugees, 200 of them arrived under the Dubs Amendment.
The decision was subsequently challenged by Help Refugees. UK media reported earlier on Thursday that the activists lost their legal challenge in the UK High Court.