Due to the important issue that this I have been in contact with the ECR policy advisor on this area to find out more about Calais. This is what they advised:
“The migrant crisis has presented Europe and its Member States with a huge challenge. The humanitarian crisis stemming from the instability of the Middle East has created an unprecedented movement of people, and unfortunately there are no easy solutions or quick fixes to the problems that we are experiencing. I fully understand your concerns about the humanitarian conditions we are seeing in some Member States; and whilst I myself have not visited Calais, many of my colleagues who work in the area of immigration have, and I know that ensuring dignified living conditions is a priority for them, and for their work in the European Parliament.
France’s decision not to declare a humanitarian crisis is ultimately their decision as a sovereign nation, and the EU institutions cannot force them to do this. However, the European Commission has taken big steps in the last week to make aid more accessible for non-government and humanitarian organisations. The European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides has established an Emergency Assistance instrument to provide faster means of support to EU countries facing major humanitarian crises, such as dealing with large numbers of refugees. This follows a previous allocation of €700 million over the next three years which will be available to Member States whose own response capacities are overwhelmed by urgent and exceptional circumstances.
The issue of unoccupied minors is a deeply concerning issue, but also a complex one. The British Government has repeatedly stated that family reunification for children and the best interests of a child during asylum proceedings are incredibly important. However, there has to be due legal process, the British Government has to go through a procedure which ensures that the families that the children are being reunited with are suitable, actually related, and that the child with be provided with a safe and secure living environment. Crucially, decisions on accepting children from other European countries need to ensure they are not encouraging and perpetuating child trafficking. The trafficking of children is a great concern, and EUROPOL has estimated that there are 10, 000 unaccounted for children that have been trafficked into the EU. That is why the UK is working with EUROPOL and other European Member States to ensure that human traffickers are prevented from making the journey, and that they are caught and prosecuted.
The UK government has announced that the Home Office will work with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to identify the most vulnerable people and children from camps in Syria and neighbouring countries. The UK government has always said that the safest route for children to safety enter the UK and other EU countries, is to take them directly from conflict regions. The UK government has also promised £10m to help vulnerable refugee minors already in Europe, and has already accepted about 1,000 refugees from Syria under the Vulnerable Persons.
About £1.1bn of UK money is being used to fund humanitarian aid programmes in and around Syria, and an additional £10m is aimed at helping children facing additional risks, and to provide safe places for them to stay, and support a database to trace children, as well as counselling and legal services.
Finally, the refugee camps in Calais and across the whole EU require a long term solution and strategic plan. If we are to find a meaningful solution to the problems in Calais, then we need to find a solution at the EU’s external border. Asylum seekers should be fingerprinted upon arrival and make their asylum claim at the first Member State they reach as agreed under the Dublin Regulation. They should not therefore, move across Europe to France without being documented. For those that have already reached France; the French authorities need to make sure that they process and fingerprint all the asylum seekers at Calais; and that those that qualify to stay should be properly settled and integrated; and those that fail to meet the criteria for refugee status should be returned to their country of origin as soon as possible. The French authorities also need to look at solutions which don’t involve camps for the protection of children and vulnerable people.”