Afghan teen is youngest refugee to die leaving Calais for UK

The death of a 14 year old Afghan boy on Friday, killed trying to cross a French motorway, has sparked demands that the UK government stop “dragging its heels” on child refugee policy, The Independent reports.

The young Afghan had the legal right to asylum in the UK as his brother and two uncles are living here. He was killed in a hitand-run accident after trying to jump on to a lorry.

Delays in the legal system meant he had been left for three month in the Calais migrant camp known as The Jungle despite pursuing the legal process to join his family in Britain. He is thought to be the youngest victim to lose his life in an attempt to reach Britain from the camp, although because some children are often travelling alone, some deaths go unrecorded.

Labour peer Lord Dubs said: “It’s disastrous this kid has been killed but sadly it is not surprising because the British Government continues to drag its heels. These children with family in the UK have homes to go to so there is no excuse for delays.”

Meanwhile not a single child has been brought to Britain under the wider provisions of the “Dubs amendment” made to the immigration bill in May, despite more than 200 children living in Calais being eligible under the criteria.

Annie Gavrilescu, a field manager for Help Refugees, based in Calais, said: “There has been a huge increase in the number of unaccompanied children in the past few weeks and we are also seeing more unaccompanied girls than previously.”

She said the spike in numbers could be due to the closure of other refugee camps in Italy and France, and more children making the journey from Libya to Italy due to improved weather conditions.

Ms Gavrilescu said: “All they want is to reach their families and somebody in an office wearing a suit is preventing them from doing that by refusing to sign a bit of paper.”

She added: “All this time the Home Office and the French authorities are blaming each other and using these children as pawns – it’s disgusting politics.”

The news comes as an exclusive report seen by The Independent reveals the number of unaccompanied minors living in the makeshift refugee camp has soared by 51 per cent in the past month to 1,022.

The dead boy had been “waiting so long he lost faith in the system and thought his only option was to risk his life in order to finally reach safety”, according to the charity Help Refugees which confirmed the death.

Childrenin Calais refugee camp. [SOURCE: Open Migration]
Childrenin Calais refugee camp. [SOURCE: Open Migration]
“Like the children still trapped in the Jungle, he is likely to have experienced enormous hardship, police violence, hunger and poor mental health. He would have felt he had no rights and that he was not worth the protection of any state. He could have been with his brother, he could have been in school, he could have been safe.

“Instead he is lying on a cold bed, having been identified by volunteers at the Refugee Youth Service.”

Neha Shah works at the Jungle Book Kids’ Cafe where she said the 14-year-old spend time learning English or watching films in the evening. She told The Independent: “He was one of the quieter boys and he was very gentle and very polite. He was extremely determined at everything we did. We’d have English lessons and he always wanted his accent to be perfect.”

She added: “He often spoke about his big brother who was in the UK and who he had the legal right to join and was trying to reach when he died.”

The boy is the second to have died trying to cross the border this year despite being part of the charity Citizen UK’s Safe Passage programme – a non-government funded legal team helping reunite refugee children with their families in Britain.

Lliana Bird, co-founder of Help Refugees, told The Independent: “Witnesses say he had managed to climb onto the back of a lorry, which swerved to try and get him off. He fell and was hit by a car. Neither the lorry nor the car stopped. Many other children witnessed his death and are traumatised by what they saw.”

30% of the unaccompanied minors in Calais are from Afghanistan, and 25% from Sudan. Other countries of origin include Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Add your comments below