Press Release – 15 March 2016

Almost 50% of children surveyed in the Calais camp seek to be reunited with family in the UK

In February, the Refugee Rights Data Project conducted a survey of more than 850 people residing in the informal camp in Calais. This amounted to approximately 15% of the camp’s total inhabitants, making it one of the largest independent data collection projects to be carried out in Calais to date.

Of those surveyed, a total of 121 were children – aged from 12 to 17.

Our preliminary results found that 91.7% of children interviewed answered that they cannot go back to their own country, or ‘don’t know’ if they’re able to return. Almost half – 44.6% – seek to be reunited with family members in the UK.

The first-hand data also suggests that these children have suffered human rights violations during their time spent in Calais.

In total, 86% of the children surveyed said they have experienced police violence since arriving in the camp. Of these, 61.2% were subject to physical violence and 28.1% verbal abuse. 95.9% reported being exposed to tear gas.

Meanwhile, 49.6% of children responded that they have experienced violence by non-police citizens – 36.4% physical violence and 25.6% verbal abuse.

Please see below for further statistics.

“Our preliminary findings relating to children in Calais underline the humanitarian crisis unfolding before us, and highlight the need for prompt and adequate action to safeguard the rights and wellbeing of hundreds of children stuck in these unacceptable conditions.”

Marta Welander – Founder and Coordinator, Refugee Rights Data Project


Unaccompanied Children

  • 5 were in the camp with their mother and/or father (4.1%)
  • 1 was with their spouse (0.8%)
  • 21 were with siblings (17.4%)
  • 45 were with no family members (37.2%)
  • 45 did not answer (37.2%)

Police violence

  • 104 have experienced police violence during their time in Calais (86%)
  • 34 verbal abuse (28.1%)
  • 74 physical violence (61.2%)
  • 116 have been exposed to tear gas (95.9%), with 58 saying their most recent exposure to tear gas lasted one hour or more (48%)
  • 57 have been detained since they started living in the camp (47.1%)
  • 47 ‘often’ see other refugees being hurt by police (38.8%)

Non-Police Violence

  • 60 have experienced violence by non-police citizens (49.6%)
  • 31 verbal abuse (25.6%)
  • 44 physical violence (36.4%)

Security, Sanitation and Health

  • 71 never feel safe in the camp (58.7%)
  • 86 reported experiencing health problems in the camp (71.1%)
  • 84 do not have enough water to wash and shower themselves (69.4%)
  • 34 do not have access to food everyday (28.1%)

Access To Education And Information

  • 87 did not have access to any sort of education (71.9%)
  • 85 did not have access to advice about their rights or opportunities to change their situation (70.2%)
  • 88 had no information about European immigration rules (72.2%)

Reasons for wanting to reach the UK, and perspectives on staying in the camp

  • 111 said they cannot go back to their own country, or ‘don’t know’ if they are able to (91.7%)
  • 54 want to live in the UK because they have family members there (44.6%)
  • 22 have friends in the UK (11.2%)
  • 27 want to move to the UK because of their language skills (22.3%)
  • If the camp disappears, 92 children said they will stay in Calais, go to Dunkirk, sleep in the street, or don’t know what they will do (76%)

Who conducted this research?

Our data collection was conducted by 20 academic researchers, working in partnership with well-established charity Help Refugees.
We are also working in collaboration with Professor Rizkhallah Alsharabati of the Political Science Institute at Saint Joseph University in Beirut, Lebanon. Professor Alsharabati has led similar studies in Lebanon among Syrian refugees.

About the Refugee Rights Data Project

The Refugee Rights Data Project is a non-profit project established in late 2015. We aim to fill the data gaps relating to refugees and displaced people in Europe by collecting our own independent field research.
Our project is entirely run by volunteers, who have expertise spanning a broad range of sectors. We are independent of any political ideology or religion, and united by our commitment to defend the rights of some of the world’s most vulnerable groups of people.


For enquiries, please contact:

Natalie Stanton
Co-coordinator and Media Relations Manager – Refugee Rights Data Project
T: 07817 380 897

The preliminary findings of this study were submitted on 10 March 2016 as evidence to the House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee for its inquiry on unaccompanied minors in the EU.