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      An Unaccompanied 15-Year-Old Dies in Attempts to Reach His Sister in the UK

      An Unaccompanied 15-Year-Old Dies in Attempts to Reach His Sister in the UK An Unaccompanied 15-Year-Old Dies in Attempts to Reach His Sister in the UK An Unaccompanied 15-Year-Old Dies in Attempts to Reach His Sister in the UK
      Photo by Frederick Paxton

      Open Water

      An Unaccompanied 15-Year-Old Dies in Attempts to Reach His Sister in the UK

      By Sally Hayden

      VICE News is closely watching the international migrant crisis. Check out the Open Water blog here.

      A 15-year-old Afghan boy has reportedly died while trying to board a truck to take him to the UK from France.

      The unaccompanied minor was attempting to cross the Channel to reach his sister and brother-in-law, who are already living in England. A spokesperson from UK-based NGO Help Refugees told VICE News that the boy's body was recently found in the back of a lorry in Dunkirk, on the French coast north of Calais.

      Another refugee in the Jungle camp in Calais, whom the 15-year-old had been sharing a tent with, raised the alarm on December 31, describing the Afghan boy as a "very nice guy with big hopes to get to the UK."

      He told VICE News that the boy had set off from Calais to Dunkirk last week in the hope of finding another way to reach England and his sister. He then became concerned after not hearing from the teenager.

      "Many refugees are putting their lives in danger to cross to the UK. I hope for a big political change of polices of migrants so we don't lose these precious lives any more," he said.

      Lliana Bird, co-founder of Help Refugees, told VICE News that the minor's sister is now in France, attempting to find out exactly what happened to her brother.

      VICE News has approached the French authorities for confirmation of the death, who did not immediately respond.

      Aid workers and another migrant also said the boy had been living in the Jungle camp, where thousands of migrants and refugees are living in squalid conditions while making regular attempts to board trucks or trains crossing the Channel, or while waiting for their asylum claims to be processed in France.

      Dozens died in Calais last year — hit by cars, trains, or trucks, or fatally injured while hiding from the French police.

      The European Union's Dublin regulations stipulate that migrants and refugees must be returned to the first European country they register in, meaning that those aiming for the UK avoid giving their names or details to officials in the countries they pass through, making it hard to monitor who is traveling along the route and how many are being killed along the way. 

      This system also makes it difficult to distinguish minors traveling alone, who may be particularly vulnerable. In November, aid agencies Doctors Without Borders and Secours Catholique took legal recourse to demand improvements, causing a Lille court to order Pas-de-Calais authorities to begin working to identify unaccompanied minors in distress.

      However, those providing assistance on the ground say this instruction has had limited impact. During trips to the Jungle, VICE News met children as young as 12 who had made the journey to Europe alone.

      The UK has also opted out of the European Union Directive on Family Reunification, so these minors have no legal means of applying to join family members within the UK who have been granted refugee status.

      While 2015 was the deadliest year on record for migrants crossing into Europe, aid workers worry that 2016 might top it.

      In the Mediterranean, the most common crossing point for migrants and refugees from war-torn parts of the Middle East and Africa, a toddler became the first reported casualty of 2016, drowning on Saturday off the Greek island of Agathonisi after the dinghy he was traveling in crashed into rocks on the shore. Another 11 people were injured before being rescued by the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS).

      The latest deaths come shortly after French authorities announced the construction of an official migrant camp at Grande-Synthe in Dunkirk. The French government will spend $1.6 million on the new facilities, making this the first official migrant camp in France for 13 years.  

      Follow Sally Hayden on Twitter: @sallyhayd

      Topics: open water, europe, france, calais, afghanistan, asia & pacific, european migrant crisis, migration, migrants, refugees, dunkirk

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