Watchdog concerned about exploitation of missing youth between France and UK

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — More than 100 child refugees known to have crossed from northern France into the United Kingdom over the past year with a human trafficking group worried that the minors are being taken advantage of.

“Of 167 children referred to UK agencies as potential victims of human trafficking after making the crossing, 104 are missing,” The Independent, a British online newspaper, reported, citing figures provided by the Refugee Youth Service (RYS), a Calais-based charity.

More than 100 unaccompanied minors known to have crossed from northern France via unauthorised routes since last August remain unaccounted for by British authorities, The Independent added.

“Now that the Dubs scheme has closed down and family reunification referrals are extremely delayed, these kids’ only real option is to jump on lorries,” Michael McHugh, the RYS coordination and child protection officer said. “There are people here now who are doing business facilitating this, and they speak the children’s language.”

Internal countries in the United Kingdom have criticized the UK’s immigration minister of a “lack of planning through the implementation of the “Dubs scheme.” It is an EU law officially called the Dublin II regulation that states families have the right to not be separated — allowing one family member to journey to another country, thus granting the right for the others to join.

“Young people are becoming more and more emboldened in their pursuit to cross, with many considering ‘work’ as a way to do it,” McHugh added. “One child here recently told me he was told by an adult male that if he could do some work he would be taken to the UK.”

After accepting just 350 unaccompanied minors passage to Britain, the government announced in February it was ending the Dublin regulation and ending the accelerated scheme to determine direct family ties.

Christine Beddoe, an activist against child trafficking who co-authored the RYS report, told The Independent that young people are turning to smugglers to get out of their current situation.

“Both in Calais and once they reach the UK, children and young people are falling victim to sexual exploitation, labour exploitation, criminal exploitation – it can be all three,” she said.

More than 8,000 refugees, many from northern Africa, Afghanistan and Syria including Kurds, were sheltered in the French encampment near Calais known as “The Jungle.” The camp was closed in 2016. 

Since then, a large blaze destroyed much of the Grande-Sythe migrant camp, also known as Liniere, on the road between Dunkirk and Calais, where many of The Jungle’s inhabitants were living.

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