Paris demanded on Monday that Britain honour promises to take in migrant children from the notorious Jungle camp in the French port city of Calais, adding to pressure following accusations by the Red Cross that London is dragging its heels.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said he would press the case at a lunchtime meeting in London with his opposite number in the British government, Amber Rudd.
“There are several hundred isolated minors with family in Britain,” Cazeneuve said. “I solemnly ask Britain to live up to its moral duty,” he said.
The notoriously overcrowded Jungle camp is home to nearly 10,000 people who have mostly fled war and strife in countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Africa with the ultimate goal of reaching Britain.
The Red Cross charity accused Britain on Sunday of leaving hundreds of young children with the right to join family in Britain in limbo in Calais, where the squalid Jungle camp is soon to be dismantled.
“Of the estimated 1,000 unaccompanied children who are currently living in the Calais ‘Jungle’, 178 have been identified as having family ties to the UK. This gives them the right to claim asylum in the same country,” the Red Cross said.
Alex Fraser, director of Red Cross refugee support, said in a statement: “Right now, the system for transferring children who have a right to be in the UK has numerous problems”.
“Children, who could be rebuilding their lives in safety with their only surviving relatives, are instead being left to fend for themselves in conditions unimaginable to most adults.”
Calais is one of several spots in Western Europe faced with a huge build-up of migrants as ever-larger numbers of people flee war, persecution and poverty.
More than 11,000 migrants were rescued in the space of just 48 hours last week off the coast of Libya as they sought to cross the sea to Europe.