French President Hollande said he and British Prime Minister May discussed transferring child migrants to the UK. But Britain has been reluctant amid public unease towards immigration evidenced by the Brexit vote.
French President Francois Hollande urged Britain on Saturday "to do its part" to take in more of the 1,500 unaccompanied minors left stranded following the evacuation of the so-called "Jungle" migrant camp near Calais.
Hollande said he had spoken to British Prime Minister Theresa May to ensure that French officials would "accompany these minors to these centers and would play their part in subsequently welcoming them to the United Kingdom."
Prior to being received in Britain, Hollande said the migrants, currently housed in a make-shift container camp near the now-demolished "Jungle," would first be dispersed around France.
"We had to rise to the challenge of the refugee issue. We could not tolerate the camp, and we will not tolerate any others," Hollande said while visiting a reception center in the western town of Doue-la-Fontaine. "There are 1,500 unaccompanied minors left in Calais, and they will be very quickly dispatched to other (reception) centers."
Meanwhile, in Paris on Saturday, more than 100 left-wing politicians signed a letter to British Home Secretary Amber Rudd. The French lawmakers called on Rudd and the British government to "immediately" take in stranded minors who want to rejoin relatives in the UK.
"[They] are not seeking any favors: they have the right, in line with current international regulations and British law, to go to Britain," the letter read. "Their transfer to Britain is urgent. We ask you to take on your responsibilities and assume your moral duty by immediately organizing their arrival."
Britain has taken in 274 children from the camp since mid-October, namely those with relatives already living in the United Kingdom.
The UK government, however, has been reluctant to accept more migrants. Since voting to leave the European Union, British officials have reckoned with public unease around growing immigration.
The daughter of a 1930s stockbroker, nicknamed "Britain's Schindler" for saving Jewish children in the Czech Republic from the Nazis, has also appealed for Britain to do more to help underage migrants.
In a letter published on the website of grassroots aid group "Help Refugees," Barbara Winton wrote: "Even at a time when city evacuations were being planned for British children, homes were found for these vulnerable young refugees. Now, 77 years later, vulnerable young refugees again seek the kindness and welcome that British people previously offered."
Calais 'Jungle' camp demolished
Officials stepped up efforts on Saturday to complete the demolition of the evacuated Calais camp. The "Jungle" encampment had until Tuesday, been home to between 6,000 and 8,000 migrants, mainly from Afghanistan, Sudan, and Eritrea. Tents and shacks have been taken down or destroyed during the week, while riot police have been stationed outside the camp entrance.
Officials have said they hope to complete the demolition by Monday night.
Hollande hailed the evacuation of the camp and vowed that France would not accept the emergence of any further makeshift camps. In an illustration of the ongoing migrant crisis, the worst in Europe since World War II, more than 2,000 newly arrived migrants set up an encampment of igloo tents along a 700-meter boulevard in northeastern Paris.
"We are going to do the same as we did in Calais," the French president said. "I have been perfectly clear: those who have a right to claim asylum will go to welcome and orientation centers, and those who don't will be shown the door."
dm/sms (AFP, AP)