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The UK Just Made a 'Ground-Breaking' Ruling on Refugee Children

The ruling could have huge implications for around 200 minors and possibly adults currently in the Jungle migrant camp who have been identified as having direct relatives in the UK.

by Sally Hayden
Jan 20 2016, 5:15pm

Photo by Phil Caller/VICE News

A British court has ruled on Wednesday that three children and a dependent adult should be allowed leave the Jungle migrant camp in Calais, France, and be reunited with their family members in the UK.

The case began on Monday, and the ruling — which was unanimous — could have huge implications for around 200 minors and possibly adults currently in the Jungle migrant camp who have been identified as having direct relatives in the UK. 

George Gabriel from Citizens UK — which has been working with unaccompanied minors — confirmed the ruling to VICE News, saying it was "brilliant" and they were "absolutely delighted," while the British Refugee Council called this "a ground-breaking order."

Before the first day of hearings began on Monday, VICE News met the brother of one of the applicants, a 15-year-old who is currently staying in the Jungle.

The two were born in Daraa in Syria. They left the war-torn country separately: the older brother escaped first, accompanied by his wife. The siblings' parents then encouraged the 15-year-old to follow him.

With Hassan — whose name was changed because of a legal need for anonymity — in London, and his younger sibling in Calais, the two remained separated by a mere 50 miles, but neither had documents that would enable them to cross the border.

"Mentally my brother is distraught because he's growing very impatient remaining in Calais because the conditions are so bad and I'm growing very frustrated because there is no way for me to see him. We're just trying to calm him down and reassure him that this might work, we can be reunited."

Related: Can the UK Keep Ignoring Child Refugees Desperate to Reach Their Families?

Hassan also said the teenager would have suffered had he stayed in Syria. "If my brother remained there there's currently army conscription going on, and they're targeting the younger people so if he stayed he would have been forcibly taken. He couldn't have gone to school. His life would have been really disrupted... Alternatively, he could have been approached by armed groups like Daesh (Islamic State) or al Nusra who would have convinced him to join them."

In the meantime, the teenager was endeavoring to board trucks and trains, even though it was highly dangerous. "My brother keeps trying, he's tried a few times to get here but he hasn't been successful."

"It's very difficult to explain and express how frustrated I feel because it's very frustrating to know that a member of your family is an hour away, a train ride away, and that you can't see him and he can't come here. It just feels like a very desperate situation."

The latest ruling came too late for some. On Monday, VICE News also attended a memorial for a 15-year-old Afghan boy called Masud, who suffocated in a truck in Dunkirk, which he had boarded in an attempt to rejoin his sister in the UK.

The full judgment will be handed down next week, but there is no stay on it, meaning the four applicants can be taken to the UK as soon as possible.

Follow Sally Hayden on Twitter: @sallyhayd

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