Forced labour for ex-Calais children

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REFUGEE children sent from the demolished ‘Jungle’ camp in Calais are being used as forced labour in fruit farms, a charity has claimed.

So far some 350 child refugees have arrived in the UK out of the estimated 2,000 living in the camp when it closed but charities are urging the Home Office to settle at least 1,000 by Christmas.

Safe Passage, a programme run by immigration charity Citizens UK, said yesterday that refugee children in France, previously registered in Calais and now living in CAOs (reception centres), are not being given sufficient information about their asylum applications.

Some have begun to abscond, and disturbingly, some report being forced to work on fruit farms or share accommodation with adults. Thirty-three boys were interviewed for the survey by Safe Passage over the week of 14 November. Interviews were conducted by telephone with the boys in their own language, each taking around 45 minutes.

Of the 33 boys: Eight (24%) have not been given clean clothes since they arrived; 13 (39%) said they felt better off in Calais; five (15%) do not feel safe. Three have not been spoken to by anyone ‘official’ since arriving (meaning a lawyer, French authorities, HO officials or local volunteers). Only five have been spoken to by Home Office officials.

Two have already absconded (these were not included in the 33 full surveys) and two were considering it. Three have reported being forced to work in fields picking fruit sent to supermarkets. Three have reported adults living with them in children’s accommodation.

Comments from the children include: ‘Not happy here, it looks like prison, we don’t have any things to play and all the time we are staying in our room and it is not safe for us, we live in middle of adults, their ages are over 20 years.’

‘If others run away I am not going to stay. I am not happy here at staying in this accommodation and please, please take us out of here to the UK, no proper food, clothes and I am bored here if the situation continue like this I may go somewhere else. It is so hard here. We cannot stay anymore. We will escape. Please do everything that is possible to help us. We have family in UK. We are human not animals and we are stuck here.’