The Sandhurst Treaty, a deal on migration policy and border security signed by France and the United Kingdom, promises to reduce the time it takes to process the cases of unaccompanied minors applying to be reunified with family in the United Kingdom. However, not all minors in France are eligible. InfoMigrants explains the process step by step.
After the signing of the treaty was announced, a number of unaccompanied minors rushed to Calais, a town in northern France where migrants have sought passage to the British Isles for years.
In just a few days, Calais was flooded with close to 200 new unaccompanied minors, who were excited to hear that the United Kingdom and France had taken steps to simplify the process to reunite unaccompanied minors with family living in the UK. The possibility of legal entry to the British Isles seemed within reach.
According to a statement released by Auberge des migrants, an NGO that helps undocumented migrants, rumors about an easy entry to the United Kingdom have been spread widely among migrants in Calais.
"We’ve noticed that, on the ground, there is a lot of confusion and a real lack of information from official sources,” the NGO stated.
So how can a minor apply for family reunification? Is there a quota for the number of people who can be transferred to the United Kingdom? InfoMigrants takes a look.
STEP ONE: Filing a claim for asylum in the United Kingdom
If you are an unaccompanied minor in France who wants to be reunited with family in the United Kingdom, the first step is to submit a claim for international protection (asylum) in a police prefecture or in a PADA (a French acronym that stands for “platform for asylum seekers” or, in French, “plateforme pour demandeurs d’asile”). You don’t need an appointment. You can go any time during opening hours.
"It’s important to specify that you are submitting a claim for international protection in the United Kingdom as part of a family reunification programme,” says Sabriya Guivy, a legal advisor at Auberge des Migrants.
After you’ve submitted your claim, the PADA or the police prefecture will call you back to schedule an appointment. The official waiting time for this is between three to ten days after submitting your claim. However, it often takes a few weeks.
During this first appointment, it’s important that you state that you are a minor and to ask for an official legal representative. In France, this is called an "administrateur ad hoc".
An “administrateur ad hoc” takes care of administration for an unaccompanied minor when he or she does not have a legal guardian.
Important: It’s not up to a minor to find an administrateur ad hoc. The prefecture will take care of it. They get in touch with a prosecutor who is then responsible for finding a legal representative for the minor.
STEP TWO: Appointment at a police prefecture or PADA
You will then receive a summons from the PADA or the police prefecture. During the appointment, you’ll meet your legal representative and be interviewed.
"That’s when the minor needs to defend his case and show all the documents that prove that he has strong family ties with someone living legally in the United Kingdom,” says Guivy.
Concretely, you and the administrateur ad hoc will actually file two claims: one for international protection and one for family reunification in the United Kingdom.
STEP THREE: "Take charge request"
Once you’ve been interviewed and both your asylum claim and your request for family reunification have been filed, France has three months to send the files to the British government in what is called a "Take charge request".
Under the Sandhurst treaty, British authorities then have 10 days to examine the minor’s claim (as opposed to two months previously). During this time, authorities examine the minor’s family relationships as well as if family members living in the UK can actually host a minor.
There is criticism about this expediated process. "This 10-day time period is just too short,” says the legal advisor at Auberge des migrants. "Currently, the British Home Office barely manages to do the necessary checks in two months. They have to meet the family and make sure that they really are related to the minor. They have to make sure that there is no abuse. Ten days just isn’t enough.”
STEP FOUR: Transfering a minor to the United Kingdom
If a minor’s application for protection is accepted, France has 15 days to organize the transfer of the minor to the United Kingdom (as opposed to six months previously).
"That’s pretty good news,” NGO Auberge des migrants says.
In summary, the French government has promised to reduce the time it takes to respond to a minor’s claim down from eight months to just 25 days (10 days for the "Take charge request" + 15 days to transfer the minor).
*** *** *** *** ***
The Sandhurst Treaty complements another piece of legislation concerning the uptake of unaccompanied children in the United Kingdom. The Dubs Amendment, signed into law in March 2016, was designed as a "fast lane" procedure for unaccompanied minors. The scheme is specific to the UK and differs from the normal procedure for family reunification under the Dublin Regulation.
With the Dubs Amendment, the UK government committed to taking a certain number of refugees under the age of 18 from the Calais area. Ultimately, the UK Home Office promised to welcome 480 unaccompanied minors.
How were the lucky ones chosen?
"At the time, London agreed to accept young people who fit certain criteria. First, they needed to have been present on European soil prior to March 2016. They needed to be coming from France, Italy or Greece. Finally, it must be proven that transfer to the UK is in the best interests of the child, says the organisation’s legal advisor.
What you don’t actually need to qualify is family in the UK. Aside from the above criteria, “everyone is eligible for Dubs.”
What’s different today?
For the time being, only 220 minors have been transferred to the United Kingdom under the Dubs Amendment. In theory, there are 260 places left.
Last week, London said that it was changing one of its eligibility guidelines. Now, minors who were already in Europe on January 18, 2018 are eligible. Minors who arrive in Calais after this date will not be eligible for transfer to the United Kingdom under the Dubs Amendment.
"Up until now, authorities have established when a young person arrived in Europe as they would any other legal fact. All different methods are used, including examining photos and testimonies,” says the statement released by Auberge des migrants.
"We’re waiting to see how it plays out on the ground,” says Guivy of Auberge des Migrants.
IMPORTANT: The 480 beneficiaries of the Dubs Amendment will only be protected until they are 18. Once they are of legal age, they must file for international protection. If they want, they can start the official asylum process as minors.