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New beginnings: 200 child refugees from Calais camp will come to Ireland

The makeshift refugee camp was cleared out and demolished last month after being deemed dangerous and unsafe.

Image: Petros Karadjias

IRELAND WILL BE accepting up to 200 unaccompanied child refugees who had been previously living in the French Calais refugee camp, it was agreed in the Dáil today.

An all-party Government motion was passed in the Dáil today to accept refugees, with priority placed on caring for unaccompanied children affected by the refugee and migrant crisis in France.

Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, welcomed the decision taken by the Dáil today and outlined the dangers facing children in Calais.

“We remain deeply concerned at the numbers of displaced and lone children across Europe.

These children – some as young as eight – are often hungry, have no school to attend and have been exposed to serious abuse and trauma. Some have been exploited by ruthless child traffickers and up to 10,000 children have gone missing.

“We must put pressure on France to live up to its obligations to register children, provide them with care, reunite them with their families and provide protection.”

Brian Killoran, Chief Executive of the Immigrant Council, said:

“Scenes from Calais last week showed children living in conditions no one, of any age, should face. These children have no access to education, no safe accommodation and they are under threat from criminals on a daily basis.”

He commended the Government and Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, that has “dealt with 104 referrals of unaccompanied minors this year alone”.

Experts from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, left for Greece earlier this week as Ireland seeks to fulfill and exceed its promise to provide a home for 20 unaccompanied children.

“We must ensure that we do our part to prevent more lone children disappearing,” says Killoran.

“This all-party motion is an important next step. We can be proud to be part of a democracy that stands by its core values as a nation of humanitarian action, equality and tolerance.”

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Restart their lives

France Migrants Losing The Dream Two migrant children from Iraq near Calais, northern France. Source: Markus Schreiber

Earlier this week, Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone announced a three-day mission to Greece with the aim of identifying lone children who wish to come to Ireland to restart their lives.

“While my department and Tusla does respond to the needs of an average of 100-lone-children who arrive in Ireland each year,” the minister said.

…I am deeply concerned about the plight of those left languishing in camps both in the hotspots of the Mediterranean and as we recently saw in Calais.

It’s estimated by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) that 90,000 unaccompanied children arrived in Europe in 2015. In Greece, 1,604 children are waiting for appropriate shelter.

The plight of unaccompanied minors was brought into sharp focus last month as France cleared the Calais “jungle” camp near the British channel.

Over 1,600 unaccompanied minors were bussed to shelters across France after it was cleared, even as many still hoped to be admitted to Britain.

Read: Ireland is looking to take more refugee children from camps in Greece and Calais

Read: “The situation for children in Calais is the worst it’s ever been”

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