Yvette Cooper: Refugee children could “disappear” as Jungle clearance begins

24th October, 2016 11:17 am

Yvette Cooper

Child refugees could simply “disappear” as police and border officials swoop on the controversial Jungle migrant camp in Calais, Yvette Cooper warned today.

The newly elected chair of the home affairs select committee said children who were “just at the point at which they might have been able to be reunited with their family” might be lost and could go on to “slip into the arms of the smuggler gangs [and] the traffickers”.

Cooper, a former shadow Home Secretary who has long campaigned on the treatment of refugees, pointed to a previous attempt to clear a camp when many children were “lost” because of the lack of a “plan for the children and teenagers”.

She backed the closure of the camp and said “it should have never have lasted this long”. It is “dangerous and squalid” and that “nobody should be living like that”, she added.

Around 1,200 police and officials are today seeking to clear the camp, which is based near Calais and is currently home to around 7,000 migrants. Some of the 1,300 unaccompanied children will come to Britain although some Tory MPs have questioned the ages of those coming here amid confusion over the age and origin some of the migrants.

Cooper told the Today programme the approach from British and French governments as “last minute” and said she feared that there was nowhere safe for many of the children to go. She stated that asylum requests should have been processed more promptly and that in the meantime criminal gangs had been able to thrive.

She also described as “really worrying” the many cases of children with family in the UK who are still in the Jungle, stating “we know there is a significant risk that these children simply disappear”.

Last week Cooper was elected chair of the home affairs select committee, beating Labour rivals Chuka Umunna and Caroline Flint to the high-profile position.

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