UK faces legal action from Calais child migrants

Thirty-six children are launching a legal challenge against the British government for its handling of their asylum cases. The teenagers went to the UK when the Calais camp closed but have been told they can't stay.

Toufique Hossain, a lawyer representing 36 children who left the Calais migrant camp earlier this year, said Thursday they were seeking a judicial review in the High Court, accusing the British government of failing to live up to a promise to take in more unaccompanied children from the site in northern France.

The pledge was made before the squalid camp, known as the "jungle," was dismantled in October.
While most of the adult migrants were taken to other refugee centers across France, Britain vowed to allow some vulnerable children to apply for asylum, at its discretion.

Child migrant plan criticized

But lawyers have accused the government of breaking its commitment to the children, saying that ministers had not used their discretion over who is eligible to remain in the country.

Instead, it has imposed a strict set of rules where a child must be either 12 or under and at high risk of sexual exploitation, or be 15 or under and either of Syrian or Sudanese nationality, before they are considered.

Hossain said 28 of the children want written reasons for why their asylum applications were rejected. Eight others are waiting for the outcome of their claims.

The children, aged 14 to 17, are from Eritrea, Afghanistan and Sudan.

'Ministers evading responsibility'

Alf Dubs, a Labour member of the House of Lords who pressured the government into making the commitment, told the Press Association that the criteria "breached both the letter and the spirit of the amendment" to Britain's Immigration Act.
"I think they have gone back on their word," said Dubs, who was himself brought to London as a Jewish child refugee fleeing Nazi troops in 1939.

The children were interviewed by British government representatives over the last two months before receiving the refusal of their applications on December 15 and 16.

The Interior Ministry says more than 750 children arrived in Britain from the camp this year.

Migrants and charity workers say several child migrants have once again begun gathering in the northern French town, two months after the camp was demolished.

mm/cmk (AP, AFP)