CALAIS – Lily Allen has apologised ‘on behalf of my country’ after seeing the squalid conditions refugees are languishing in at the Jungle camp in Calais.
The 31-year-old singer broke down in tears at one point during a meeting with a boy aged 13 from Afghanistan, who has risked his life trying to board UK-bound lorries.
The teenager, who said his father lives in Birmingham, has been camped at the Jungle on the edge of the northern French port city for two months.
But Allen’s comments and visit led to her receiving a large amount of abuse online, with viewers claiming her apology was ‘ridiculous’ and that she was ‘so annoying’.
The singer later hit back by tweeting that she was only saying sorry to a ‘helpless child for the part this country has played in contributing to his dire situation’.
During her meeting with the boy, Allen told him: ‘It just seems that at three different intervals in this young boy’s life, the English in particular have put you in danger.
‘We’ve bombed your country, put you in the hands of the Taliban and now put you in danger of risking your life to get into our country.
‘I apologise on behalf of my country. I’m sorry for what we have put you through.’
Allen wiped tears from her eyes at the end of their exchange, which was broadcast on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme.
She also asked the boy why he is trying to get on lorries to Britain, after she was told by volunteers at the camp that he has a legal right to be in the UK.
He replied: ‘The legal process is very slow, you wait for at least three or four months. It’s too slow. The way I am trying works better.’
On Allen’s visit, she volunteered in a warehouse where donations come in which are then distributed to the estimated 10,000 migrants and refugees living at the camp.
She also visited a bus for women and children where she heard stories of some of the desperate measures people living there have gone to to try to reach Britain.
Allen said: ‘It would seem to me that there are people who have been driven very far away from what they know and love, stability and comfort.
‘I don’t think anyone would choose to live in the Jungle. No-one would choose that.’
Allen said she frequently ‘sits next to millionaires at dinner’, and that she would like to be able to ask them to ‘put their hands in their pocket’.
The singer tweeted pictures earlier this year after going to a party attended by guests including Rupert Murdoch and Nigel Farage.
Allen also told the show: ‘If you’re going to spends hundreds and hundreds of millions of pounds on getting involved in conflicts in these areas, there has to be some kind of contingency fund for the fallout.
‘These children have been displaced have had to run away from what they know – we have to take the responsibility.’
The singer added that she would ‘100 per cent’ take an unaccompanied child into her home, adding: ‘Who wouldn’t?’
She continued: ‘These children are being displaced – (if) there’s room for people in my house, I’m going to take them in. I think anyone would.
‘The idea of my children wandering around aimlessly without anywhere to go… It is a real situation, it’s happening closer to us than Glasgow.
Following the programme, Allen took to Twitter to complain that she was receiving a large amount of abuse for her comments and visit to the camp.
She tweeted: ‘Wow, so much abuse for apologising to a helpless child for the part this country has played in contributing to his dire situation.
‘A lot of people saying I should be more concerned about cases of migrants raping our own citizens.
‘I was talking about the 1,022 unaccompanied children in Calais, who are to be evicted next week.
‘I haven’t heard any cases of children raping people here, I’d imagine they’re far more likely to suffer at the hands of opportunist abusers.’
French president Francois Hollande has said that the camp will close before winter, with its inhabitants dispersed around the country.
It has become a symbol of his government’s failure to tackle Europe’s migrant crisis and a target of criticism from conservative and far-right rivals seeking to unseat him.
Homelessness charity Emmaus has called for the closure to be postponed because it says ‘all conditions are not met for an efficient humanitarian operation to take place’.
The head of Secours Catholique in the Calais area, Vincent de Coninck, is adamant the port city will remain a transit point to Britain.
There are more than 10,000 migrants in the Calais and Dunkirk area who want to get to Britain to claim asylum.
Allen’s trip was organised by the humanitarian charity Help Refugees, which also arranges for the emergency aid to be distributed at the camp in Calais.
Josie Naughton, the charity’s co-founder, told MailOnline today: ‘Lily’s visit highlighted the desperate plight of these children.
‘We need to make sure all 1,022 unaccompanied children are protected before the demolition and that those with a legal right to be in the UK under the Alf Dubs amendment or Dublin III are brought to safety as soon as possible.’
The Dubs Amendment refers to an amendment to the Immigration Act, originally put forward by Lord Dubs, requiring the Government to arrange for the transfer to Britain and support of unaccompanied refugee children from Europe.
And the Dublin III regulation is a European Union rule which means children have the right to come to Britain because of their close family links in the country.