Lawyers for 36 children from the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp have launched a legal challenge claiming the Government has reneged on a commitment to bring vulnerable child refugees to the UK.
The challenge to Home Secretary Amber Rudd is the first time children from the camp have taken individual legal action against ministers.
It centres on an amendment to the Immigration Act that means Britain has to accept some of the most vulnerable unaccompanied child refugees who do not necessarily have ties to the UK.
The children involved in the case were dispersed across France after the Calais camp was dismantled in October.
Of the 36, 28 have already had asylum applications refused – 11 of them aged 14, seven aged 15, nine aged 16 and one aged 17.
These are made up of 16 children from Eritrea, 11 from Afghanistan and one from Sudan.
Lawyers from Duncan Lewis Solicitors say the Home Office has failed to allow the relocation of many of the most vulnerable children to the UK.
They also say it has failed to give proper written decisions in refusing applications and failed to use its discretion in response to extreme cases.
The legal proceedings focus on the case of one 14-year-old boy from Afghanistan as well as the broader issues affecting all of the children.
The boy was said to have been shot by the Taliban, exploited by people traffickers and beaten by French police – and repeatedly tried to kill himself while in Calais.
He was described as “traumatised and vulnerable” and in need of treatment.
Lawyers said they had twice written to the Home Office to raise concerns about his condition but neither letter received a response.
Toufique Hossain, director of public law at Duncan Lewis Solicitors, confirmed details of the legal challenge, first reported by The Guardian.
He said the children had been left to wait until the new year for any legal remedy – the earliest date that Home Office officials had agreed to give reasons for their applications being refused.
Mr Hossain added: “The way that this has all been handled by both the UK and French authorities is nothing short of shameful.
“It is morally reprehensible and, we argue, simply unlawful that these children have not been given written reasons as to why their applications were refused.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “It would be inappropriate to comment on ongoing legal proceedings.”
A change to the Immigration Act to help vulnerable child refugees was brought in following pressure from Labour peer Lord Dubs – himself having been a child refugee from the Nazis.
The Government faced criticism last month when it published guidelines that seriously restrict which children would qualify to come to the UK under the Dubs amendment.