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Re-uniting families in the chaos of the refugee crisis: medico-legal assessment of unaccompanied refugee minors in the Calais Jungle (mental health and legal perspectives)

Jacob Ellis (Paediatric Liaison Team, Royal London Hospital, East London NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK)
Susannah Fairweather (Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK)
Mark Scott (Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, London, UK)
Laura Griffiths (Safe Passage, London, UK)

International Journal of Human Rights in Healthcare

ISSN: 2056-4902

Article publication date: 10 July 2017

Abstract

Purpose

In total, 90,000 of the 1.26 million people applying for asylum in the EU in 2015 were unaccompanied children. The Dublin III Regulations provided a unique legal situation where unaccompanied young people in the Calais Jungle potentially had the right to be reunited with family in the UK. The purpose of this paper is to explore the substantial challenges presented by carrying out medico-legal assessment of this group in the Calais Jungle.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors consider the refugee crisis from a mental health and legal perspective. The authors provide two case examples to contextualise and describe the work. The authors draw from the observations and the literature to discuss the impact of living in the Calais Jungle on young people, the challenges the authors overcame to carry out the assessments and the needs of refugees following settling in the UK.

Findings

The authors conclude that the Calais Jungle was a toxic environment not suitable for young refugees’ continued emotional development or recovery from trauma. The current legal process to relocate a young person to the UK is time consuming and labour intensive. The authors note that these concerns are not unique to the Jungle, nor have they ended with its demolition. The difficulties young refugees face with mental illness continues following their arrival to the UK.

Originality/value

This was the first successful attempt since the Dublin III Regulations to seek a legal route to bring unaccompanied refugee minors from France to the UK. This paper was co-written by both the legal and mental health professionals involved in the cases providing a broad opinion across both disciplines.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank all of the Safe Passage volunteers, legal and mental health professionals who offered their assistance with managing this task. The authors would like to thank the young people who gave permission for their stories to be used to educate others.

Citation

Ellis, J., Fairweather, S., Scott, M. and Griffiths, L. (2017), "Re-uniting families in the chaos of the refugee crisis: medico-legal assessment of unaccompanied refugee minors in the Calais Jungle (mental health and legal perspectives)", International Journal of Human Rights in Healthcare, Vol. 10 No. 3, pp. 187-194. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJHRH-03-2017-0008

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited