European court rules in favor of child migrant, fines France
PARIS (AP) — The European Court of Human Rights ordered France to pay 15,000 euros ($17,000) to an Afghan migrant for failing to protect him when, as a 12-year-old, he lived alone in a makeshift migrant camp in Calais.
Thursday’s decision is limited to the case of Jamil Khan, who spent six months in the squalid camp, one of scores of unaccompanied minors there.
Khan sneaked across the English Channel in March 2016 and now lives in Birmingham.
The Strasbourg court said that it wasn’t convinced the French government did all it could to care for and protect the child, as a court had ordered after a lawyers’ group filed a complaint on his behalf.
The court ruled authorities had breached Europe’s human rights convention forbidding inhuman or degrading treatment.
The decision comes amid controversy over a new French database on young migrants who claim to be children.
The number of migrants officially recognized as underage in France tripled between 2015 and last year, to more than 17,000 people, the Interior Ministry said in a statement Thursday. But it said a much larger number of adult migrants claim to be children in order to seek special state aid and shelter from local governments.
If local officials determine that they are adults, these migrants then travel to other regions to apply again for child benefits, the ministry said. So the government issued a decree last month allowing the creation of a nationwide database of migrants seeking child benefits, including their photos and fingerprints.
UNICEF and several other rights groups objected, and filed a complaint Thursday with the Council of State, France’s highest administrative body. The rights groups fear the new database doesn’t respect privacy rights, encourages authorities to deport young migrants, and will scare isolated children away from seeking help.