Barriers to education for children in northern France

By Mina Tawanda, RRE Programme Associate


New report sheds light on barriers to education

A growing number of displaced children are growing up in camps across Calais and Grande-Synthe in northern France. The conditions in these camps that children are forced to live and grow up in for extended periods are becoming increasingly hostile as the UK, and French governments evict people 2-3 times a week. There is limited access to sanitation facilities, food and shelter.

A recent report published by Project Play, a grassroots organisation working with displaced children between Calais and Grande-Synthe in northern France, highlights the lack of protection for and safeguarding the rights of children in these camps, especially the right to education.


Multiple violations of child rights

Under French law, all children between the ages of three and 16 residing in the French state are required to attend compulsory education. This means that displaced children in northern France have the right to go to school. However, this right is undermined by several different barriers that prevent children from accessing education, such as:

  • Lack of accessible translated information
  • Some French municipalities will evade their obligations to provide education by improperly requiring parents to provide “undue administrative justification”
  • Requirement by some schools of permanent address
  • Lack of transportation between the living areas and schools
  • Lack of safe and legal routes to the UK.


The importance of play and education

Access to education for displaced children is not only important for their future as is their right, but it also helps emotional, physical and cognitive development. It creates a space for children to be children. Project Play works to fill the gaps in disrupted education by providing children with a safe space to play and develop.

Project Play demands that the French government must:

  • Uphold its obligations under the Convention of the Rights of the Child through making decisions informed by the best interests of the child principle;
  • Provide displaced communities with information on accessing schooling, to provide transport links from the camp, and to address current barriers which exist.

Project Play demands that the UK government must:

  • Open safe, legal routes of passage to the UK for those wishing to seek asylum or join family there. Further securitisation of borders has forced displaced individuals to take far more treacherous journeys, thus risking their lives in search of safety;
  • Uphold their obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and take joint responsibility with the French government for the children who are left in limbo at the UK-France border.


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