Europe’s biggest slum, which is now home to approximately 10,000 migrants who are squeezed into a wasteland area just east of Calais, will soon be a distant memory. In a few weeks, the slum that has been a point of political significance in the latest campaign and elections will be eliminated by bulldozers.
Aid workers relay that they have witnessed signs of hysteria and panic while inhabitants of the space attempt to work out a plan B, of which many had not considered ahead of this new plan by the government. Of those 10,000, there are multitudes of child refugees who have no family to move on with.
Einas spent eight months leaving southern Ethiopia unaccompanied to arrive in northern France in January. The 17-year-old spent his family’s savings in hopes he would reach the United Kingdom. However, when the Jungle is torn down, he fears his dream will be no more.
“I am here to reach the U.K., that is all I think about, I have no other plan.”
Many child refugees in the camp are in the same situation as Einas, without a fallback plan. Rumors continue to make the rounds in the camps as to when the refugees will be forced out of the site, while aid organizations for the camp have begun distributing suitcases for refugees to begin packing up their things.
— Elli (@lisabethsara) September 14, 2016
The Guardian shares how the news of a camp tear down is inspiring refugee children to take risks to survive and reach their intended destinations.
“The injection of uncertainty has caused panic among the camp’s unaccompanied children. On Saturday charities said they were witnessing signs of ‘hysteria.’ Some warn that youngsters are taking increased risks as they attempt to climb on to lorries heading into the port, fearing that their chance of reaching the U.K. is fading.”
It is a dire situation for unaccompanied refugee children because they have been left with no options, while families and adults at the camp have been told they will be sent to smaller reception camps across France. Locals have welcomed the dispersal plan. However, this plan leaves out those who are not with their family and have not reached adulthood. Inca Sorrell, who is a member of the camp’s unofficial women and children’s center, spoke about the dire situation it leaves these refugee children in.
“Children are willing to take more risks. They are going out most nights fearing that all this will be taken away from them. There is real panic. At least the adults have been given options.”
President Francois Hollande is to arrive in Calais on Monday to begin the process that will see the camp razed and the inhabitants dispersed across 164 reception centers in France. As the publication notes, it is a saddening circumstance when the most vulnerable have been left out of the plan for relocation.
Jess Egan, who is a member of the camp’s Refugee Youth Service, shares that the organization has proposed recommendations to French authorities highlighting the need for these vulnerable children to be referred to safe houses within France, noting the U.K. anti-slavery commission warned that the child refugees of Calais would be at greater risk and be “exposed to slavery and exploitation.”
— Coventry Telegraph (@covtelegraph) September 14, 2016
Many in France, however, blame the United Kingdom for its failure to honor promises made to help child refugees. Jess Egan spoke on the frustration and devastation that has occurred due to the stalled plan of the U.K. government.
“They have already had a recent murder on their hands, a child who had family in the U.K. but who died because the process to take him there was not speeded up.”
The incident referred to involves Raheemulla Oryakhel, a 14-year-old who was struck by a vehicle nine days ago on a main road in Calais. The boy had a legal right to meet his brother in Manchester, but there was a stall in progress and attempts to relocate him.
A compatriot by the name of Abdul spoke of the death and the frustrations surrounding it.
“Everybody is scared at the moment, we are feeling that the U.K. government is to blame for Raheemullah’s death. Some are starting to think that the solution is to stay in France.”
Although a wasteland and not truly fit for human life, the Jungle has become the only home and source of stability for many child refugees.
[Featured Image by Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images]