Nice start but what next for Calais?

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News that the trickle of children admitted from the Calais jungle has started to become more of a steady flow is, of course, welcome.

But there are still hundreds there and no real sign that there will be a convey of coaches to bring them to the UK, where they can be reunited with their families, as they are entitled.

I wrote before on LDV, and spoke at Conference, about these children being caught in a web of bureaucracy. The Home Office does now, it appears, take this more seriously but the danger that the demolition of the camp might take place before they make their way across the Channel remains all too real.

Demolition was supposed to happen on Monday 17 October. The fact that it has been deferred is good news but there is still a real chance that it might happen as early as next week. Experience tells us that should that happen many children will simply disappear – and thus be even more at the mercy of people traffickers.

Tim Farron speaks for all Liberals when he says:

It is outrageous to hear the Home Secretary now claiming to be acting urgently to ensure the safety of these children.

Where was this urgency for the last year that they have been stuck in Calais, and why does it only extend to a small number of the hundreds of these unaccompanied kids?

He also speaks for some Conservatives too.

Local councils are ready for the influx, although many have found that co-operating with the Home Office is hard work, especially since that Department’s understanding of the law facing children is limited. Nor has the Home Office been particularly forthcoming about the practical consequences of its change of heart, although last week’s meeting between councillors, humanitarian charities and Home Office officials, hosted by the LGA, has certainly improved matters.

This episode has been a blot on the reputations of two countries: the UK, already behind most of its neighbours in terms of accepting its responsibility for children displaced by its own foreign policy failure, and France, which has cringed before the politics of its impending Presidential election and which has turned a blind eye to the thuggery of its CRS riot police.

Happily, parliamentarians on both sides of the Channel have spoken out and will no doubt continue to do so.

But in the end, the issue is the children: and far too many politicians and commentators have seen the issue in terms of rights, obligations and geopolitics rather than common humanity.

* Chris White is a member of the Liberal Democrat Voice Editorial Team, a Liberal Democrat Councillor from St Albans and Deputy Leader of the LGA Liberal Democrat Group.

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One Comment

  • Jayne Mansfield 19th Oct '16 - 9:53am

    It has been a controversial start, and therefore, one that should worry those of us who want to see child refugees from war-ravaged countries welcomed into the country.

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