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More than 100 refugee children go missing from Calais 'Jungle'

According to a UK charity, 129 unaccompanied children have gone missing since demolition of southern part of sprawling camp
Children play in the southern part of 'The Jungle' in Calais as demolitions continued last month (AFP)

More than 100 children have gone missing since the demolition of part of ‘The Jungle’ refugee camp in Calais last month, a UK charity has said.

Help Refugees UK conducted a census after the destruction of the southern part of the informal camp in March and found that 4,946 people were still living there, including 1,400 in shipping containers provided by the French government. More than 61 percent of children in the camp who were surveyed said they never feel safe, according to the Refugee Rights Data Project.

In January, the EU’s criminal intelligence agency Interpol said at least 10,000 refugee children had disappeared since arriving in Europe, and it was feared that many of them had fallen prey to human traffickers.

In a Facebook post, Help Refugees UK expressed concern about the fate of 129 unaccompanied minors who'd been living in the camp but have disappeared since the demolition.

“We are deeply shocked and very concerned to report that 129 unaccompanied minors cannot be accounted for,” the charity wrote.

“No alternative accommodation was provided for unaccompanied minors during the evictions, no assessment was made by the French authorities of their needs, and no systems put in place to monitor them or provide safeguarding.

“There is no official registration system for children in place In Calais or Dunkirk.”

The charity said it had informed UK Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield and her French counterpart about the findings.

“With Interpol already reporting over 10,000 missing refugee children in Europe, we need to do everything possible to mitigate against the children in Calais and Dunkirk adding to these numbers.”

According to the census, there are still 294 children living by themselves in the unofficial camp, and a further 209 in the main camp, set up by the government to replace The Jungle. The youngest is eight-years-old.

“This is simply not acceptable,” the Help Refugees post said. “We call on the French authorities to put systems in place immediately to register and safeguard the remaining 294 lone children in the camp.

Almost 76 percent of all those surveyed by Refugee Rights Data Project said they have experienced police violence during their time in Calais.

The Refugee Rights Data Project conducted a survey of 870 people residing in the camp between 20-26 February, amounting to about 15% of the camp’s inhabitants.

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