Press Release – 24 April 2017

Children remain in critical danger in Calais, shows new data

In early April 2017, Refugee Rights Data Project (in collaboration with Help Refugees, Children’s Rights Alliance Ireland, and Refugee Youth Service) carried out the largest research study in Calais and the surrounding area since the demolition of the so-called ‘Jungle’ camp six months ago.

The research study surveyed more than half the estimated 400 refugees and displaced people thought to be residing in the Calais area. Among the people interviewed were 86 children - some 43% of the estimated displaced minors in the region.

Snapshot of key findings on child refugees in Calais:

  • 99% of the children living in the Calais area were unaccompanied.
  • 64% of the children had been in Europe for more than six months, while 19% had been there for more than a year.
  • 56% previously lived in the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp.
  • 43% said they have family in Europe. 37% have family in the UK and the rest in Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, and Switzerland.
  • 86% "don’t feel safe" or "don’t feel safe at all".
  • 97% have experienced police violence in France, including tear gas, physical abuse and verbal abuse.
  • 92% have been told to move by French police while they were sleeping, with just 15% being informed where they could sleep instead. 77% described the incident as "violent".
  • 56% have experienced violence from citizens in France, including physical and verbal abuse.
  • 89% want to go to the UK, primarily because they have family and friends there, and/or because they believe their asylum claim would be accepted there. Others said they aim for the UK because they believe they can get a good education there, and/or because they can speak English.
  • 95% don’t have access to information about asylum law or immigration rules.

What the children told us:

  • "They said they’d process our family reunion but only took ten people out of 50 and left the rest of us. I didn't have any option but to leave the accommodation centre."Boy, 17, Eritrea
  • "The national police ran after me and fought me, beat me by stick and sprayed me with tear gas on my face. I didn't expect that to happen in a country like France." - Boy, 14, Ethiopia
  • "Once in the middle of the night they threw tear gas on us, while we were sleeping under the bridge. Another time in the middle of the night, two police officers chased me and beat me with a baton and kicked me." - Boy, 17, Eritrea
  • "France police beat me in the middle night when I was alone."Boy, 17, Sudan

About these research findings:

These striking figures and testimonies feature in a new report, Six Months On, compiled by Refugee Rights Data Project, in collaboration with Help Refugees, Children’s Rights Alliance Ireland, and Refugee Youth Service, and with additional support from Utopia 56, Secours Catholique, Refugee Community Kitchen and l’Auberge des Migrants. The report is based on interviews with 213 displaced people living around the Calais region, 86 of whom were minors, conducted from 5th to 9th April 2017. Please find the full report here.

The report also contains data collected from young adults in the area, predominately aged between 18 and 35. Among all respondents, 72% have been in Europe for six months to more than two years. 63% previously spent time living in the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp. 85% don’t feel safe in Calais. 89% have experienced police violence, and 59% citizen violence in Calais.

Implications of the research:

The report highlights the sheer extent of the child protection failure taking place in Calais, and urges the UK government to take immediate, effective action.

The fact that 37% of the children interviewed said they have family in the UK, suggests they may be eligible for reunification under the Dublin regulation. However, of the children who applied to join their family under this legal mechanism 3% were refused, while 19% did not receive any result. The rest are yet to access the system.

Many more of these vulnerable children could have been granted protection in the UK under the ‘Dubs’ scheme, which was scrapped by the UK government earlier this year.

Meanwhile, there is also an urgent need to provide more humane standards on French soil. The current state approach of police brutality and intimidation does little to resolve the unsustainable situation that continues to unfold in and around Calais.


Marta Welander, Director of RRDP, said:

"The well-known camps in Calais and Dunkirk are gone. However, our latest research findings show that hundreds of children remain in the area - many alone, scared, and facing life-threatening dangers on a daily basis. It’s time for the UK government to stop trying to conceal this problem with fences and barbed wire, and adhere to its moral and legal obligations to protect these vulnerable children."

Josephine Naughton, CEO of Help Refugees, said:

"RRDP’s findings are particularly concerning in light of the recent fire in the Dunkirk camp which left another 1,500 people without shelter. Among those affected by the fire are more than 100 children - 80 of whom appear to have the right to be safely and legally transferred to the UK as they either have relatives there, or are eligible under the Dubs Scheme. The UK and French government need to expedite the process for family reunion to the UK, and put proper protection measures in place for those children remaining in France, a process which should have been underway a long time ago."

Michael McHugh, Refugee Youth Service France coordination and child protection officer, said:

"The research findings highlight a critical child protection failure on European soil. Without access to family reunification processes or support to access French and European protections systems vulnerable young people will end up staying in unsuitable conditions for lengthy periods and remain at risk of violence, exploitation or sadly being lost from the system.

Whichever side of the asylum discussion or political spectrum one sits, it is sadly apparent that our existing Asylum systems are not fit for purpose. Courage and leadership are needed to review and strengthen our existing child protection systems to respond to this border crisis. Every child is of equal worth and deserving of protection. Sadly across Europe at present, those of us working on the front line with these young people see that this does not translate into practice or policy."

About Refugee Rights Data Project

Refugee Rights Data Project (RRDP) is a non-governmental human rights organisation and UK-registered charity. We aim to fill information gaps relating to refugees and displaced people in Europe by conducting our own independent field research.

Our organisation is run by individuals spanning a broad range of sectors and backgrounds. We are independent of any political ideology or religion, united by our commitment to defend the human rights of some of the world’s most vulnerable groups of people. For more information, please visit

Contact Details

For enquiries, please contact:

Marta Welander
T: +44 (0)7880 230979