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Calais: Plans must be made for families to be reunited in the UK

The French and British authorities must make plans to ensure that all those living in the Calais refugee camp have access to asylum procedures, adequate accommodation and, where relevant, reunion with family in the UK if the planned demolition of the site goes ahead next week, Amnesty International said today. In the absence of any confirmed plans, the demolition will put the rights of refugees and other migrants at increased risk.

The camp is due to be pulled down on Monday 24 October and, after a long campaign by grassroots organisations, a number of unaccompanied children have arrived in the UK this week. However, it is thought that there are many more people in the camp with relatives in the UK and therefore a legal right to claim asylum here.

Steve Symonds, Director of Amnesty International UK’s Refugee and Migrant Rights Programme, said:

“It has taken a major public campaign to get the government to finally start to do the right thing by enabling some children living in the Calais camp to join their relatives here, and - despite what we’ve heard from some politicians and seen in parts of the media - many are celebrating their arrival and welcoming them to the UK.

“While both governments have dragged their feet and shamelessly shirked their responsibilities, children and adults in Calais and elsewhere in Europe – including those with family here – have been abandoned, putting them at great risk. Many have fallen into the hands of smugglers, and some have died.

“The demolition of the Calais camp will make an already dangerous situation even more precarious for some of the most vulnerable people on our continent. The very least the UK government can do is respect its legal obligations to reunite people with family members here.”

International law requires the British and French governments to prioritise the best interests of asylum-seeking children, whether accompanied or not, and this includes allowing them to be reunited with family in other countries. European law – in particular the Dublin III Regulations – requires governments to enable people seeking asylum, including many adults and children, to be reunited with family already in another EU country.

While there have been some improvements in access to asylum procedures and accommodation for some asylum-seekers in Calais, and steps have been taken by both governments to honour their obligations under international law, the scale of what has been achieved is underwhelming. Amnesty is not aware that anyone entitled to family reunion under Europe’s Dublin III Regulations has been reunited except for unaccompanied children, and even the number of unaccompanied children who have been reunited with family is significantly lower than the number of children who are entitled to it.

Amnesty has also warned that nobody should be voluntarily or involuntarily evicted or relocated in circumstances that fail to respect their dignity, exacerbate existing risk or harm to their welfare, or additionally undermine or inhibit their access to asylum procedures and/or family reunion.

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