DOUE-LA-FONTAINE, France (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande said on Saturday he had spoken with British Prime Minister Theresa May to convey the message that Britain should take its share of responsibility for minors from the “Jungle” migrant camp of Calais.
There was tension this week between the two countries over how to take care of young migrants after bulldozers flattened the camp that had been home to over 6,000 refugees and migrants hoping to cross the Channel to Britain.
Hollande said 5,000 people had been evacuated from Calais and that there were 1,500 unaccompanied minors left, who would be transferred swiftly to other reception centers.
“I talked yesterday with the British prime minister, as (French Interior Minister) Bernard Cazeneuve did with his British counterpart, so that the British can go to those centres with those minors and take their share (of responsibility) to welcome them in Britain,” Hollande said.
Late on Thursday, British Home Secretary Amber Rudd was quoted by a spokesman as telling France it must guarantee the protection of these youngsters.
The issue is sensitive in both countries and the head of France’s Ofpra refugee agency, Pascal Brice, responded bluntly on Friday: “We’ve done Britain’s work in tending to the adults.”
“The least they can do is take care of the isolated minors who are now at the CAP (temporary lodgings) and who have an interest in going to Britain,” he told Reuters.
European Union rules say Britain must take in unaccompanied children who have family ties there. An amendment to those rules adopted in Britain this year states that such minors whose best interests are served by doing so should also be admitted.
Britain has so far accepted 274 children from among this group, France said on Thursday.
Hollande, speaking in western France after visiting one of the 450 reception centres set up to welcome Calais migrants, said a sprawling camp in northeastern Paris would also be dismantled and those eligible for asylum sent to those same shelters.
There are some 2,000-2,500 sleeping in tents in the northeast Paris camps, up from around 1,500 before Calais started being dismantled, a local official told Reuters on Friday, adding that some came from the “Jungle” and others from other areas.
“We will carry out the same operation as in Calais,” Hollande said. “We will evacuate the Paris camps.”
Hollande said most of the newcomers in the Paris camps did not come from Calais but from a new wave of arrivals via Libya.
Reporting by Ingrid Melander; editing by Richard Balmforth