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Calais: Refugee Camp

Volume 774: debated on Thursday 15 September 2016

Question for Short Debate

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of the decision by the Government of France to dismantle the refugee camp in Calais on children living in the camp.

My Lords, I am pleased to have secured this short debate. Anybody who has been to the Jungle in Calais will have been shocked by the squalid conditions there. We see those conditions on television and in our newspapers but there is nothing as awful as being there and seeing them first-hand. Our special concern is of course with the children there. I am also obviously concerned about unaccompanied child refugees in Greece and Italy.

There are two categories of children here. Let me explain this because there is some confusion. There are what are colloquially called Dublin III children: those who have arrived in Europe unaccompanied but who have relatives in this country. Clearly, if they have relatives in other countries then the responsibility would be to ensure that they join those relatives elsewhere. The Dublin III children have relatives in this country. Indeed, their right to come here was always there, long before we had the debates on the Immigration Act.

Secondly, there are children specifically covered by the amendment to the Immigration Act that I moved. They are unaccompanied child refugees who arrived in Europe before 20 March—that is the Government’s wish—and who are now in Greece, Italy or Calais. They are different from those under Dublin III although there is some tendency to confuse the two. I appreciate that the wording of the amendment did not necessarily distinguish between them but one cannot always reword an amendment that has got through after many hours of debate from lots of people.

Who has come to this country so far? From Calais, only Dublin III children have done so. The main ones who have come have been identified by British NGOs, in particular Citizens UK. As I understand it, they were not identified by either French or British officials, or by the French NGO France terre d’asile . As far as I know, even to date, no children have come from any of the locations—but certainly not from Calais—covered specifically by the Immigration Act. Maybe there are some in the pipeline but my understanding is that not a single one has come so far. As I said, Citizens UK identified those under Dublin III of whom there are 100 or so, the larger number having come from Calais. It was the British NGO that identified them. I pay tribute to the NGOs who work there. There are some wonderful NGOs with people working there for nothing—no pay at all—to give support to very vulnerable people, including children.

I am also aware that local people in Calais are very unhappy at the existence of the Jungle. Who would not be? Some 9,000 people live there with not much hope, desperate to move forward in their lives. They sometimes use illegal techniques to stop the traffic so that they can get on the back of a lorry. This is pretty tough for the HGV drivers—British and others—trying to get their vehicles across. It is a very unhappy situation and only a week ago there was a demo in Calais protesting about the existence of the camp. Nobody is happy about the camp. The question is how we move on.

On my second visit to Calais, I had a chance to talk to the Prefect. As I learned, the Prefect is a government official and his main concern is his links to the Minister of the Interior in Paris, unlike the Mayor of Calais who of course has a locally elected constituency. I did not meet the Mayor of Calais, although other people who went to the Jungle have. The Prefect said to me that there was no procedure in place to begin the process of identifying the Immigration Act children, which explains why none of them has come here. My information may not be accurate but that is what he said and he speaks fluent English. He then confirmed that the intention was to bulldoze the camp.

Some time ago—a year or so—half the camp had already been cleared. I was not there, so I know only from what people have told me that the methods used were pretty harsh. One can see that a whole area has been cleared but a church there survived, due to legal action. I was told that the authorities used teargas and rubber bullets to move the people on. If they did that, I find it rather shocking. All I know is that the little row of shops in the Jungle had on display teargas canisters and rubber bullets, so presumably there must be something in the view that they were used. When I asked why these harsh methods were used, I was told that the concern in Calais was that the National Front was quite strong there, so they were being tough with the people in the Jungle. My view is that if you behave like the National Front, you do not discourage it but give it more credibility. However, that is a matter for the French authorities and how they have acted.

The critical issue now is how the relocation of people from the Jungle is to be achieved. I hope that the British Government will be able to work closely with the French authorities. This is not in our country and it is a French responsibility but I hope that we can help them. We have spent a lot of money providing barbed-wire fencing and a week or so ago, we were told that a wall was to be built. Having had a helpful chat with the Immigration Minister earlier this week, I understand that proposals for a wall have been around for a long time. But I said that it would send quite the wrong signal by suggesting that the camp is there permanently, which neither the French nor we want, and have negative connotations. If we are to spend that sort of money we would do better to provide better facilities, jointly with the French, to relocate the children who might then be on their way here. I hope that we will not waste our money on a wall; anyway, it will not be that difficult for people to walk around the end of it.

My first key point is that it is important that all people in the Jungle, but particularly the children, are fully informed of what their rights are on claiming asylum. There is a view there that they do not want to claim asylum—that they have been persuaded, and want only to come to this country. Although I concede that quite a few have in the end claimed asylum, the ones who I spoke to thought that their only option was to come to this country. There is a feeling that they would not be treated that well by the French. I think they probably would be but as long as there is this misunderstanding, it will be hard to make progress. Of course, it is believed that there are traffickers and people smugglers in the Jungle, who have a vested interest in persuading others not to claim asylum in France. That way, they can get some money from them by helping them to get on a truck or jump on the train.

If we act in the best interests of the child, as we must, then the relocation of the children is a sensitive matter, but it is important that it be done on the basis of the young people being fully informed and of their being assured that their assessment for eligibility to come to Britain will be carried out quickly, for those who qualify. Such a sensitive approach, if it is demonstrated to be sensible, could work well and give those who are eligible a better chance to come to this country. I hope very much that the lack of knowledge and confusion in the Jungle can be overcome.

We cannot of course go in there and start telling people what their situation is. That is up to the French authorities, which would probably agree that having the people better informed would be an advantage. When I was there a couple of weeks ago, I spoke through an interpreter to some 14 and 15 year-old Ethiopians who said that they had been given no information by anybody in authority. Nobody on behalf of the British Government or the French Government had spoken to them or told them what their rights were. When I asked them why they want to come to England, one of them said that it was the English language. Of course, the English language is a pull but it is hardly a sufficient reason in itself.

I urge that we do everything we can in conjunction with the French to make sure that the people in Calais are told what their rights are so that when the relocation happens, they know that it is not a negative step. They will otherwise resist any such move, but it is a positive process. I hope that the French will play their part in providing that information for the adults in Calais, who have no particular qualification to come to this country. Surely it is not beyond the wit of the two Governments to agree to do this.

I am drawing my remarks to a close. The Government have said that they would act on the letter and spirit of my amendment to what is now the Immigration Act. My criticism of the Government is that nothing is happening. If it is happening, we ought to be told about it. If it is not, we want to know why—and would the Government please get a move on? It is the Government’s obligation and I hope that they will act on it.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for this debate and for his relentless campaigning on this subject.

I declare an interest as a board member of UNICEF UK, which arranged for me and my noble friends Lady Morris of Bolton and Lady Hodgson—neither of whom can be here today, sadly—to visit the refugee camp in Calais at the end of July. This was a trip facilitated by Citizens UK. I take this opportunity to thank it and the volunteers, not just for arranging the visit but for the wonderful work they do in the camp, especially their support for children. All the volunteers, including those working in the kitchens to feed the refugees, are doing amazing work. I also pay special tribute to the extraordinary Liz Clegg, who lives with those children in horrible circumstances. She has no background in humanitarian aid but is loving and caring, and is supported only by contributions from those who visit. We felt humbled by them all.

We too were shocked by what we saw and heard: children afraid to leave their tents during the day, in case everything they had was taken from them, while every night they risk their lives in trying to enter the UK illegally. We saw no government advice on the Dublin III family reunion process, or the provision in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. Instead, those children are reliant on the relationships built by a small voluntary group formed by Citizens UK. We were told that before the intervention of these volunteers, children who have family members in the UK had no idea that there was a safe and legal way of being reunited with them.

It is difficult to discount the pull factor with regard to the broader stance on the French and European migrant crisis; indeed, we met a number who wished that they had not come and were trying to get the message home to others not to make the journey. But when it comes to unaccompanied children who are eligible under Dublin III we must take action, as the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, said—and fast. I fear history is likely to be unkind to us if we do not. There is no valid reason for our Government to keep children in Calais when they have families in the UK ready to receive them, take on the responsibility and have a duty of care. This is distinct from opening the floodgates and being overwhelmed.

Let me give an example. Earlier this week, I met a volunteer who has been working in the Jungle. She met two such children in Calais: Huda, who is 14, and her brother Ibrahim, who is 16. They are Iraqi Kurds whose mother is in Birmingham and whose father was killed in 2005 by a bomb in Iraq. They became separated from their mother immediately after the bomb, in tragic circumstances, and left Turkey on their own last August—Huda having begged Ibrahim, as she was desperate to find her mother. My contact was heartbroken to see these children cold, vulnerable, upset and hungry. They were insulted and belittled by the CRS police in front of her eyes. She quickly raised £3,000, got them out of the camp and paid a local host family in Calais —themselves volunteers—to look after them while legal proceedings ensued. The process took over nine months and involved two separate tribunals, Home Office lawyers, UK lawyers, barristers, French lawyers, French care systems, DNA testing and hundreds of hours of correspondence before the UK finally took charge of the children. This example demonstrates the psychological trauma that so many children experience. The apparent inertia of the French and British authorities ultimately meant a greater cost to our taxpayer, while causing extreme emotional hardship on these children.

From a cost-benefit analysis—economically, politically, and socially—it seems that we should expedite processing Dublin III children. For those lacking UK family ties the solution is more complex, although a child’s safety should be paramount along with a concern for their future, be it in the UK, France or elsewhere.

I have three ideas for my noble friend the Minister to consider. When the previous camp demolition occurred, hundreds of children went missing. This makes it critical that the processing of these children is speeded up and that they are kept safe in appropriate accommodation during this period with access to the legal and social care they need. A group should be mandated to identify unaccompanied children with a legal right to be in the UK and to provide the legal advice they need to be processed. We should take on the traffickers and smugglers by ensuring that refugees are aware of their legal rights at the start of their journey as well as in Calais, as the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, said.

Collectively our countries have achieved so much for humanity and have so much to be proud of, and it saddens me that there appears to be no solution to the plight of these desperate children in Calais.

My Lords, I, too, appreciate the work that the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, has done. He has done as much as a parliamentarian can, and more, to keep this issue at the top of our agenda. I add my heartfelt thanks to him for all his effort and work in doing that.

The noble Lord has covered the issues that the Minister needs to answer this afternoon. I shall add some comments as the trustee of a charity, Articulate, which works in the camp in Calais with its partner Hummingbird. These charities work to provide a safe space for children in the camp where they spend some hours doing things that children normally do, such as drawing and playing. I want to pay tribute to all the volunteers who go over to Calais for these charities, at their own expense, often giving up their own work to do so. The conditions they work in are really difficult, and there is no structure to rely on, a point I shall come back to at the end of my speech. I shall share a few of their comments with noble Lords and then ask the Minister a question.

The first comment from one of our volunteers is: “I used to worry when I read about the refugee crisis and the so-called Jungle in Calais in our newspapers, or saw images of children in the camp living in squalid conditions on my TV screen. But now I worry when I don’t—when I know that what is happening is going unreported”.

The second comment is: “I have been working in Calais with children and young people since April, and each week that I go I see the situation deteriorate. Now with winter approaching, hope in the camp is diminishing and the boys are taking greater risks to get to the UK. I now worry each week when I leave the camp that a child we have got to know over the past five months will become another name on the ever growing list of children who have disappeared or lost their lives crossing borders”.

The third comment is: “A deaf boy who we see regularly in our safe space drew me a picture of the different ways he attempts to get into a lorry each night to get to the UK. The image only highlights to me the absolute danger this child is in”.

The volunteers mention many of the health issues—“weeping, itchy eyes from the CRS firing tear gas into the camp, children who have terrible coughs, children who have scabies. These children certainly need proper medical attention”.

The final comment is along the lines that were mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, in her powerful contribution: “The camp has no protection from within, you could say it is pretty lawless. CRS who guard it are known to be physically abusive to the children and the children report this to us frequently. There is no one official to tell when things are happening at night. The worst thing about the camp, they said, was the lack of protection. The youngest we work with who is unaccompanied is eight, and there are children with disabilities and high needs in the camp”.

My comment to the Minister echoes that of the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, and the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. Surely the very least that can be provided by two of the wealthiest nations in western Europe is temporary accommodation that is fit for children, regular, nutritious food that they can count on and medical attention that addresses their basic needs while they are going through the lengthy processes that they will inevitably have to go through. From time to time, Ministers have said that this would not be possible because it might create a pull factor, but it can be ring-fenced to the children there now—not a huge number. The fact that we in Britain and France cannot get our officials and Home Secretaries together to provide something like this in the next few months, until these children get their passage, is something the Minister needs to explain this afternoon.

My Lords, I, too, pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Dubs, whose persistence in gaining justice for unaccompanied child refugees, including hundreds of psychologically scarred and terrified children in Calais, has been and continues to be extraordinary. It is also extraordinary that no child has yet arrived under what one might call the Dubs amendment. After all, the amendment was agreed by the then Home Secretary, who is now our Prime Minister.

My home is two hours away from London, yet it takes just one hour to get to Calais where about 9,000 people are living in deplorable, insanitary, lawless and inhuman conditions, with more arriving every day. These are our fellow human beings whose courage and tenacity know no bounds, yet it is as if they are existing in a different world. These are some of the most traumatised and vulnerable people on the planet, many of whom have fled wars and terror, seeking security. The children on whom we are focusing today have travelled thousands of miles, encountering dangers that we cannot even imagine. At least 387 of them should now be in this country with their families. Like others, I pay tribute to the volunteers, and I particularly thank Clare Moseley of Care4Calais.

The Minister tells us that some progress has been made, and this is welcome, but I have to question the figures. She suggested that 70 children had been accepted for transfer to the UK, but I understand from charities on the ground that only 30 have actually been transferred. I would be grateful for the Minister’s comments. In addition, the Government tell us that the UK contributed £530,000 towards a project run by the French NGO France terre d’asile to identify and protect vulnerable people in the camp. Apparently the organisation ran a project in June and July to assist in processing the applications of unaccompanied minors, but, of 20 cases identified, only eight were completed before the project shut down because it had run out of money. Further action needs to be taken.

So what is really happening to speed up the process? Colder weather is coming and the camp is due to be dismantled by the end of the year. Speed is of the essence. It is critical that the Government ensure that there is a plan in place for safe closure and that particular responsibility is taken for unaccompanied children with a legal right to be in this country. We know who these children are, so what are the Government doing to expedite the collation of information about them and their families and the necessary documents and to assist them through the process of making a claim through the French asylum system and getting their asylum claim transferred to the UK? If 70 children have been accepted this year, that is about two a week, as the noble Baroness said earlier this week, so suddenly it seems highly unlikely that the 387 children left will arrive before the camp is dismantled. What work are the Government doing with the French Government to provide suitable accommodation for the unaccompanied children, together with the legal and social care they require?

A leaked document from the French Interior Ministry highlights plans to keep under house arrest individuals whose asylum request concerns another EU country when the transfer is arranged. From mid-October, children with valid claims to come to the UK could be in detention. This is unacceptable for asylum or migration purposes, and I wonder what representations the Government have made to the French.

Last week, the Minister assured the House that local authorities receiving the traumatised children who arrive in this country will be fully funded. I ask for further assurance that the Government will continue the funding for as long as the children need expert help and support. Local councils are desperately underfunded, so I do not blame them, but I criticise the Government and I am deeply ashamed at the contrast with Germany and Sweden in terms of both numbers and resources.

I understand why the decision has been taken to demolish the camp, but it is not a long-term solution to the situation in Calais. In February, more than 50% of the camp was destroyed, but it is now bigger than it has ever been, and there has been an increase in the number of people living in smaller camps along the northern coast of France.

The evidence is that, despite the demolition, refugees will continue to arrive. This is a humanitarian crisis that has become an intractable political problem, and it is not going to go away. I strongly urge the Government to work even more diligently with their French counterparts to find a sustainable, long-term solution that will help the refugees, the hauliers and the people of Calais. I hope that next week’s high-level summit at the UN General Assembly will be a catalyst for real action.

My Lords, I was encouraged by the Minister’s answers last week that the pledge to accept 20,000 refugees by the end of this Parliament was on track, that the infrastructure was there and that more than 100 local authorities were ready to co-operate in making sure that these people were able to come. That is of course encouraging, but do we have to wait until 2020 to receive those people? If it is on track and local councils are prepared, could we not bring that forward, say to 2018? The sooner we get folk here, the fewer will lose their lives, as the sooner they will give up trying to arrive by illegal and dangerous means. Could the Minister carry the message back that we do not have to wait until 2020 to receive these folk? We could receive them at a steady pace, say over the next two years.

My second point is that as well as the 20,000, we had the amendment from my noble friend Lord Dubs—I can call him that—that we had hoped would allow us to bring in 3,000 people. Unfortunately, that amendment was not carried, but an unspecified number of young people can be accepted here. Like everybody else in the Chamber this afternoon, I am so disappointed at the slow progress. With winter coming, the kids are in the cold and facing a winter with many dangers in the camps. They are not like our children, who have parents to look after them or grandparents to give them comfort. These are lonely children who have been traumatised. The longer we allow this to continue, the more we are sowing the seeds for more terrorism in the future. If we do not let people have a wee bit of hope, we could very well have a massive catastrophe on our hands.

There are about 10,000 refugees altogether in the camps. Where are the children going to go if the camps are demolished? We must step in. It is our moral duty to do so. I am sure other noble Lords read the dreadful report this week about the state of the children who are in Greece. They are the same age as our youngsters, and I would like to see the children of the UK able to lend a hand to bring the refugee children from the crisis areas into the UK. Let the children share. It will benefit the children from the other side of the channel of course, but it will also benefit our children to be part of an operation that will show what a difference offering true help will make. Children on both sides of the channel would benefit.

There are 387 children who are registered in one way or the other and eligible under my noble friend Lord Dubs’s amendment or under Dublin III. That list was given to the Home Office some time ago, but no reply has been received. We are still waiting. I feel sometimes that the Minister is really on our side and not on the Government’s side—I hope that is the case —whereas most of the Ministers who sit on the Front Bench are reading a brief and are not really convinced of the arguments that they are presenting. I suggest to her that we could do this, and make sure that the children in Calais, Dunkirk or wherever are registered and have gone through the procedures. It is no use keeping them over the winter—we want to register them now. The families who are going to receive them should also be registered and go through the CRB checks, so that they are ready to accept the children as soon as possible. Can the Minister tell me, once we have that, what the obstacle would then be to, let us say, a convoy of school buses going through the tunnel to Calais to bring these children over here? We could do that and show the compassion that is part, I hope, of our core nature.

I have a daughter who is involved in the night shelters at Christmas. They tell me that if we wanted bedding and so on, they have the beds. All this could be put together very quickly. Let us do it positively and give the children of Calais the chance of sharing the joy and the comfort of the children of the United Kingdom. I hope very much that we proceed in that direction.

My Lords, I am glad to follow that impassioned speech by the noble Lord, and I share entirely what he had to say. I am co-chair of the parliamentary group against human trafficking and modern slavery, so my particular concern, as your Lordships might imagine, is of course the dangers to the children in Calais. I would add, along with everybody else, my admiration for the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for his persistence and effectiveness in keeping this terribly important subject before the House and of course the Government.

There is not much to add, as it has already been said so powerfully by others today, but there is an urgency, as the camp is about to be demolished. There are two groups of children that we have been told about. I can understand that those who do not have family here will have to go through a procedure to find homes for them and local authorities prepared to take them, but that is not in fact a very difficult procedure, one would have thought. As for the 387 children who have a right to be here, we should all be very ashamed of the story told to us by the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, about the children who have a right to be in Birmingham but who spent nine months trying to get here. I fail to understand why children with a right to come to this country because they have family here are not being brought within weeks. I cannot see what the hold-up is, and in so far as there is a hold-up, for goodness’ sake, can everybody not get off their backsides and do something about it?

First, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Dubs on putting down this most timely Question for Short Debate today. Unlike some noble Lords, I have not visited the refugee camp in Calais. I have relied on the media reports and talking to people such as my noble friend Lord Dubs and my friend in the other place Keir Starmer MP, who have visited. It is a desperate, nightmare situation, with people, many of them unaccompanied children, living in squalor and at risk of being the victims of violence and abuse. The damage to their mental health and long-term well-being that this trauma must be causing is unimaginable

The horror of the predicament the children find themselves in is truly shocking, and we should all be ashamed about that. We have a moral duty to help these children. The United Kingdom has a reputation as a safe, tolerant and generous country. Our history shows that when called upon we step up, do our fair share and do not shirk our responsibilities. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, will have a raft of statistics to illustrate what the Government are doing. I have no doubt that we have very able and dedicated staff doing everything they can within the constraints they are working to. I thank them and pay tribute to them for the work they are doing. I also join my noble friend Lord Dubs in paying tribute to the NGOs and all the staff they have there working very hard in Calais.

But it is the Government’s responsibility to up their game. Can the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, tell me whether there is a proper system in place, organised by the French authorities, to register people, particularly the children, to find out who they are and see who is eligible to be brought into the UK? If it is determined that they are eligible and can come to the UK, it is important to get them in urgently, as the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, just said.

How are the Government going to up their game? What assistance are they giving to the French authorities and other agencies? Why has so little happened since my noble friend’s amendment was accepted by the Government? Yesterday during Questions, reference was made to the 400 children on the list, and the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, referred to them today in his contribution. These are the ones who campaigners believe are eligible to be settled here, either under the Dublin III regulations or under my noble friend Lord Dubs’s amendment. The list was handed recently to the Home Office, so what has happened to it? What action has been taken to identify the children on the list? What action has been taken to verify whether they are eligible to get to the UK, and when are we going to bring them here? How many have been accepted?

It is really important that this is not viewed as immigration. It is about children fleeing persecution and violence, and our responsibility as a nation to face up to its responsibilities and to do its bit urgently. As my noble friend Lady Royall of Blaisdon said, the French Government have announced that the refugee camp at Calais is to be demolished, although I do not think a timeline for that has been agreed. What discussions have the Government had with the French authorities about that decision, and what is their assessment of the safety of the children if the camp is closed and the people there dispersed over a wide area? People at the camp will need shelter, food, and clothing. Winter is coming and the children should be safe, warm, dry and fed, not homeless, cold, alone, hungry and scared.

I very much endorse the ideas that the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, mentioned in her contribution. I also pay tribute to Councillor Paul Carter, the leader of Kent County Council, and all the members and staff of that council and the other local authorities across the country who have helped, although Kent has undoubtedly taken the lion’s share of the burden, when refugees reach the UK. What further assistance are the Government giving to local authorities? I refer the House to my declaration of interests.

In conclusion, I thank my noble friend for his diligence in raising this issue. We are all grateful to him, and I hope the Minister can give us some comfort when she responds to the debate.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. Since I have been a Minister I have answered a question almost every day on the issue of not just migrants in Calais but children in Calais. Not only does that show the importance this House places on the issue; we also join the country at large in being concerned about children who are, as many noble Lords have described, traumatised and in great difficulty and under the jurisdiction of other countries.

The Government are clear about our moral responsibility to assist those who are suffering as a result of the conflicts in the world, and we recognise that those fleeing persecution have a legal entitlement to protection. Refugee children are particularly vulnerable, as we know, and our priority is to protect them as best we can.

I shall set out the context of the wider situation, particularly with reference to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts. For those children in the Middle East and north Africa, we have set up a new vulnerable children’s resettlement scheme, which will bring children most in need to the UK from the regions. Under this scheme we will resettle several hundred individuals in the first year, and up to 3,000 by the end of this Parliament. That is in addition to our commitment to resettle 20,000 vulnerable Syrians over the same period. To give the noble Lord some comfort, in the year ending June 2016, 2,682 people were resettled under the Syrian resettlement scheme, half of whom are children.

The previous Prime Minister announced earlier in the year that the much-needed Syrian relief effort would be doubled to over £2.3 billion, so that is a doubling of our efforts in terms of the money we are putting in. For those in Europe, we have made significant progress in improving and speeding up the existing processes. That is reflected in the number of children who have been accepted for transfer to the UK this year under the Dublin regulation, which currently stands at over 120.

In France, we continue to build on this progress and are working with the French Government to ensure that children in Calais with family links in the UK are identified, receive sufficient support and can access the Dublin family reunification process without delay. More widely in Europe, we are in active discussions with the UNHCR, other partner organisations and the Italian and Greek Governments to strengthen and speed up mechanisms to identify and assess unaccompanied refugee children and transfer them to the UK where that is in their best interests. The noble Lord might think it is in all the children’s best interests to be in the UK but that is not necessarily the case; these things are more complicated. While I share his view that the welfare of children in Calais is paramount, I believe we should be acting in the best interests of the child, and for that reason we are focusing on prioritising family reunion cases.

Both the UK and French Governments are clear that those in France who require international protection should claim asylum in France. For unaccompanied children the UK will consider requests to take responsibility for an asylum application made in France when lodged by a minor with close family connections in the UK, and both Governments are committed to ensuring that such cases are prioritised. To start this process, the child must engage with the French authorities.

We have made significant progress in speeding up the transfer of unaccompanied children who already have family members in the UK, under the Dublin regulation. Since the beginning of this year, over 70 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children have been accepted for transfer to the UK from France under the family provisions of the Dublin regulation. More than 30 of the Dubs children have met the Dublin criteria and most have been transferred. I said yesterday and I say again today that whether a child is a Dublin child or a Dubs child, they are a child, and more than 30 of them are now here.

Many noble Lords have talked about the co-operation between the UK and France. It is intense. We are working so hard to improve the operation of the Dublin process. We have established a permanent official-level contact group and will be seconding another expert to the French Interior Ministry in the next few weeks to build on the very real progress that has been made. We have also established a dedicated team in the Home Office Dublin unit to lead on family reunion cases for unaccompanied children.

On camp clearances, we recognise that there are indeed children living in the migrant camp in Calais. Noble Lords have told a variety of heartbreaking stories of what they have seen and heard, but we must make it clear that the management and protection of children in Calais is predominately a matter for the French authorities. The French Government have been clear that they intend to clear the camps in Calais by the end of the year. The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, asked for a more exact timing. I cannot give it, other than to say that they have talked about the end of the year.

Both Governments understand that the camp clearances will have an impact on the children who are still there. That is why the UK and France are working more closely than ever before to ensure that the children in Calais have access to decent accommodation and the appropriate support services in France. The picture so far is that 5,000 people have taken up alternative accommodation, and I must emphasise that no one is forced to remain in the camps, although I appreciate some of the stories that noble Lords have told about the difficulty of getting out of them.

To assist with the clearances, I understand that the French Government intend to create additional places in temporary accommodation centres and asylum accommodation places across France by the end of the year. I understand that figure to be 12,000 in total. The British Government understand that the total number in the camp is about 7,600; NGOs estimate it to be more like 9,000; but if the number of places to be provided is 12,000, that is indeed welcome news. Ultimately, anyone impacted by the camp clearances in Calais has the option of engaging with the French authorities. We have assurances from the French Government that no child or adult has to stay in those difficult conditions and that care and support by the French state is readily accessible.

My noble friend Lady Jenkin, the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, talked about identifying and informing vulnerable people who may be traumatised and not know what to do. The UK and France have put in place a programme—there was a question about it yesterday—the FTDA, to identify and help direct vulnerable people in the camps to the support that they require. Since November 2015, the FTDA has led a project on human trafficking in Calais called Aide aux Victimes de la Traite, which means support to victims of human trafficking. The aim is to enforce identification and orientation of victims in the camp in Calais. The team comprises four field officers, who are multidisciplinary. Crucially, they have legal and social work skills, can speak English and Arabic, and conduct daily patrols of the camps to identify victims of trafficking. The people identified by FTDA as vulnerable or potential trafficking victims are mainly young women or unaccompanied minors at risk of sexual exploitation or coercion to commit offences, and victims of violence from other migrants, mainly smugglers. The British Government are contributing £530,000 to this project, and the French Government have tasked FTDA with identifying 150 unaccompanied minors with family links to the UK. The French Government have doubled the FTDA’s resources, as I said yesterday, and extended the project at least until December.

On oversight of the project, which is important and which I mentioned yesterday but will say again for the benefit of noble Lords, the project steering group is made up of representatives from the Home Office, alongside officials from the French Interior Ministry, the Jules Ferry centre, the Calais prefecture and French law enforcement.

The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, asked about funding. I can confirm that it will be £41,460 per annum per child. The money to boost regional structures will be £60,000 per annum.

I am aware that I am about to run out of time. We all understand that the camp clearances in Calais will have an impact on everybody in them, particularly the children. That is why we are working closely with the French Government to deliver our shared aims. Any child in the camp has options available to them, and we are confident that the French Government are able to provide the appropriate services and accommodation for those impacted by the clearances. We will obviously continue to work closely with our French counterparts to ensure that children in the camp have access to the appropriate services, and that those with UK links can access the Dublin family reunification process without delay.

I thank all noble Lords for taking part in the debate.

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, can she assure us that the 387 children whose names are already with the Home Office will receive immediate consideration, before the winter, which we hope will not be harsh, sets in?

I am pleased that the noble Lord asked that, because the other day, there were 110 names, according to the right honourable Member in the other place, Yvette Cooper. Yesterday, I understood from the noble Baroness, Lady Jowell, that it was 300, and the noble Lord has given me a different figure. All those names are being considered. There may be crossover, we do not know, but they are all being considered and processed in the usual way.