Dozens of children who had to spend the night in a partially demolished migrant camp in Calais were loaded onto buses Friday to be taken to temporary accommodation elsewhere in France, aid groups said.
Having failed to register with French authorities this week, they had no right to access a shipping container complex at the site where 1,500 registered children are staying while they wait to see if they can go to Britain.
Confusion continued into Friday afternoon, when buses finally arrived outside the camp to pick up the stranded minors, as well as some adults who also remained, charity Care4Calais said.
It wasn’t clear whether all the unregistered children have now left The Jungle, nor where they were being taken.
Video from the scene showed French police overseeing the process.
Sleeping in a mosque and school
Work to empty and demolish The Jungle migrant camp began Monday — but as of Thursday, approximately 100 unaccompanied minors remained at the camp with nowhere to go.
Chaotic scenes unfolded outside the camp Thursday, with riot police barring entry to the camp and the authorities threatening that anyone who hadn’t been registered could be taken into custody.
Aid workers who waited with the teenagers who hadn’t managed to register because of long lines said they had finally been allowed back into what remained of the ramshackle camp to sleep.
The minors were permitted to stay in the makeshift school and mosque on the outskirts of The Jungle, Alexandra Simmons, of the charity Care4Calais, told CNN on Friday morning. Some had already spent the previous night sleeping rough at the camp.
Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais, told CNN via email: “School quiet this morning. Children given food and drink. Some have wandered off into the camp or elsewhere which is exactly what we feared.”
She said the police had come to the site and asked for a headcount, which was 106 children and nine adults.
Shortly before Thursday’s standoff ended, Care4Calais had tweeted that the French authorities had told “all remaining people at the camp to leave immediately, without care for where they go or how they get there.”
Dorothy Sang, a spokeswoman for Save the Children who has spent days in the camp, tweeted Friday morning: “Last night we couldn’t find spaces for minors so they were forced to sleep back in the #calaisjungle. Unacceptable.”
The UN children’s agency, UNICEF, was also strongly critical of the operation, warning of the dangers of human traffickers exploiting vulnerable young people.
“The UK and French governments promised to keep children safe throughout the demolition,” it said in a statement Thursday. “Yet right now, the situation for some children in Calais is more dangerous than ever.
“Despite queuing for hours yesterday, dozens of children were reportedly unable to register and get their official wristbands from the authorities before the registration closed. This kind of situation is exactly what exposes children to traffickers and smugglers, and puts them in dangerous situations without food, shelter and any support.”
Diggers have this week been tearing down the tents and other structures at The Jungle, swaths of which have also been ravaged by fires.
Calais authorities: ‘We have fulfilled our mission’
Asked Thursday about reports that migrants, in particular young people, were still sleeping rough in The Jungle, the Calais prefecture’s office said these were migrants who had only arrived in the area Wednesday and so were not included in the original resettlement plan.
As for claims of unaccompanied minors still seeking shelter in the Jungle, the prefecture’s office told CNN that these young people had refused to get on a bus to a nearby shelter.
“Right now we are cleaning up the camp and by Monday The Jungle of Calais will no longer exist. We have fulfilled our mission. The operation is finished,” the prefecture’s office said.
French authorities said Wednesday that almost 5,600 migrants had been taken elsewhere — most to reception centers elsewhere in France — since the operation to dismantle the camp began, including 234 unaccompanied children sent to the United Kingdom.
The UK government has committed to take unaccompanied children from The Jungle who have family ties in Britain, as well as considering the cases of other unaccompanied minors without family connections. But that process only got under way in the past week.
The camp sits some 30 miles across the English Channel from Britain, one of the more desirable destinations for refugees in the region.