Category Archives: Migration

Seeking Sanctuary: update for the end of October.

Phil Kerton and Ben Bano have issued the following plea for prayers and ongoing practical support for all those facing an uncertain future as a result of the order for demolition of the ‘Calais Jungle’ Please support their Christmas card initiative as well as the ‘little bags of love and hope’

Dear Friends

This is probably one of the most difficult updates that we have had to prepare. As we write there is a prayer vigil going on in the Eritrean Church – bulldozers are close by but no one has yet given the order for demolition – although this could happen at any time. Is there a last-minute pang of conscience? We simply don’t know. Those responsible for the upkeep of the Church have been prevented from returning there and we await firm news of the final fate of the beautiful icons (one appearing on our Christmas card) which have been rescued in the hope that they can adorn an Orthodox Christian Church in France.

Our feelings after the expulsion of residents from the camp are very mixed. While we are pleased that our migrant friends are able to get away from the squalid and dangerous conditions of the ‘jungle’, many face an uncertain future in ‘Welcome and Orientation Centres’ at locations that are often in remote parts of the French countryside with populations that are often wary, if not hostile.

We believe that many will make their way back to Calais and there is already evidence of new arrivals settling in clandestine ‘mini-jungles’ nearby. Another large group of people, around 1000, are still in the camp near Dunkirk. We have been asked if we have a role in the new situation and the answer is a resounding YES. In addition to helping the migrants in Dunkirk (who require at least 800 daily meals) we will try to establish where the needs are and act accordingly. And so for those of you who have shown an interest: please continue with the ‘little bags of love and hope’ initiative.

Thanks also to those of you who have been in touch with us about Christmas cards – the front cover has a particular poignancy at the moment and 2000 of the cards are being distributed. The artist will receive a further royalty and the proceeds will go to the Refugee Community Kitchen which is still preparing a large number of meals for Dunkirk and elsewhere.

Christmas cards and ‘little bags of love and hope’

Alongside all this, the 1500-place container dormitory in its fenced compound now contains 1800 unaccompanied minors and dozens more are sheltering nearby, not far from the 400 women and children in the Jules Ferry Centre. These people, approximately 2500 in total (with scores more arriving daily), also need shoes, clothes and daily meals – and above all, human companionship. A good number are eligible to find refuge in the UK, but most have endured the extra trauma of being shoved from pillar to post by confused officials both during their official registration and the departure of adult buses.

Please continue your prayers.

Ben + Phil.

Seeking Sanctuary: “the issue of migration to Calais is not going away”

In the August update Seeking sanctuary reports that “It’s now a year since Seeking Sanctuary became active in organising much-needed aid for Calais. In that time we have had the privilege of responding to numerous offers of help as well as helping to channel significant sums of money raised by well-wishers such as yourselves to the places where it is most needed. When we look back over the last year, there is much to be thankful for in spite of the dismal conditions of the “jungle”. The plight of so many migrants inspired hundreds of volunteers and newly created voluntary organisations which proved essential, given the lack of will of both the British and the French governments to tackle the problems on a more strategic scale. And the reactions from so many organisations, including Faith Communities and schools and numerous other organisations have been nothing short of inspiring. And a special word of thanks to the Religious Communities who continue to support us with their prayers, good wishes and material support. We estimate that during the year we have raised over £30,000 to pass on to those who deliver to the needy in Calais and Dunkirk, as well as assisting in the start-up of other groups who have raised yet more cash, as well as collecting and delivering significant quantities of clothes, toiletries, food and other essentials.

The latest census shows that the issue of migration to Calais is not going away – if anything it is getting worse, with an estimated 7000 people now living in often squalid conditions in about half of the original “jungle” area. The attitude of the French authorities continues to be ambivalent and highly confrontational and there are rumours that the authorities intend to demolish the rest of the jungle during September. The informal restaurants and shops on which the camp economy has depended have been closed down or severely restricted with the authorities confiscating much of the stock. And yet life goes on – new services meet the needs of children and of women have sprung up and others specialise in all sorts of fields: medical and social care, entertainment, education, drainage, waste management, to name but a few. The number of unaccompanied children has reached record levels and now stands at 608.

We continue to advocate for these children to have their claims expedited to be reunited with relatives in the UK – as well as the inhumanity of leaving children as young as eight on their own there is a real risk of trafficking through abduction. And in spite of the efforts of a committed group of social workers, who go to Calais weekly to help to prepare some of the required documentation, recent legal judgements are making the process ever more difficult and protracted.Today, the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee has issued a report on the Migration Crisis. It comments that ‘It is clear that many people in these camps [in Europe] are entitled to humanitarian protection or refugee status, and that their claims should be processed in the UK. Much more could and should be done through family reunion and accepting unaccompanied children, including increased use of safe and legal migration routes. … … the 157 unaccompanied children now in Calais who have family members in the UK “should already have arrived” in the UK. The Government should as a one-off accept all of these children into the UK now. ‘

Our appeal this month is the same – in whatever situation you find yourself, please do everything possible to ensure that the plight of migrants on our doorstep and beyond is not forgotten. Lobbying your MP and local Councillors or organising a social gathering to raise funds are all ways in which we can ensure that in this currently xenophobic climate, the needs of so many destitute people on our doorstep are not forgotten.

On the domestic front, on appeal, the UK Court of Appeal yesterday considerably tightened up on the conditions under which vulnerable people in Calais and other places can make a direct application to the UK to join family members already resident. Instead, they must work through the often prolonged “Dublin III” process in the country in which they are temporarily resident. On the other hand, our government has finally come up with a methodology for approving groups to run community sponsorship schemes, so providing an additional a way to get involved in supporting the resettlement of vulnerable people who flee conflict”

Ben + Phil.

For more information click here:

Response to Brexit from War on Want

Whichever way you voted, many will feel a sense of relief that the referendum is over. The mainstream debate became increasingly nasty and divisive as it neared yesterday’s climax, with friends on all points of the political spectrum taking opposing sides.

We now need to rebuild our alliances behind the vision of a world we can all believe in.

War on Want will work with sister organisations across Europe to continue the campaign against the EU’s damaging free trade deals. As the UK now turns to develop its own relations with the rest of the world, we will also build the call for a progressive trade and investment policy from Westminster.

We must ensure that the Leave vote cannot be claimed as a mandate for the UK to develop its own trade deals on the negative lines that it has traditionally supported within the EU.

The news coming out of Brussels is that the European Commission is now seeking to deny national parliaments a vote on CETA – despite numerous promises that the deal would have to be approved by parliamentarians in every EU member state. more here

War on Want will be launching a campaign this autumn for migrant workers’ rights. We were appalled to see the scapegoating of migrants and refugees that became such a feature of the EU referendum debate. Please join us now to be part of the debate.

Welcoming the Stranger: J&P Responds to the Refugee Crisis

2015 saw the flow of refugees to Europe, already creating tragedies in the Mediterranean, increase exponentially. We have become used to seeing the images of processions of desperate people streaming along roads, boarding trains and being blocked at borders, and hearing of the daily toll of deaths of people fleeing war, persecution and the impacts of climate change drowning in the seas in their attempts to reach Europe.
 
On 6 September 2015 Pope Francis called on ‘every parish, every religious community, every monastery and every sanctuary in Europe … to host a family…’. There was an outpouring of good will across the continent and in our own country, particularly after the images of the death of Alan Kurdi were picked up by the media. This forced the UK government, slow to react to calls to take in more refugees on the grounds that it was by far the biggest funder of aid in the refugee camps in countries bordering Syria, to promise to resettle 20,000 vulnerable refugees from the camps in the UK over the next 5 years, i.e. about 4,000 per year.
 
In response to this the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales asked for a someone to be appointed in each diocese to co-ordinate offers of help and support and to work with the civil authorities to assist in the welcome of those being brought in as part of the resettlement programme. Several of those co-ordinators are Justice and Peace workers or commissions, while other J&P people have been getting involved in their local areas. As we enter 2016, what has been the experience so far, and what is needed as we go forward?
 
There has been a generous response financially and in offers of help, but how best to direct this help has been an issue.
 
In relation to the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS), dioceses are working with Local Authorities who are responsible for resettling the refugees. Liverpool is aiming to set up local support groups to co-ordinate activity on the basis of local authority areas. Volunteers will be needed to create welcoming communities for these refugees.
 
While initially much attention was given to offering accommodation, spare rooms are not necessarily appropriate for those under the VPRS, and rules relating to accommodating refugees can make this difficult. Arundel & Brighton diocese are hoping to appoint a Project Worker to look at setting up hosting schemes and other ways to utilize offers of support.
 
However, as well as being woefully inadequate as a response to the scale of the need, the resettlement programme does raise the question, are we creating two classes of refugees, with asylum seekers already here facing delays, obstacles and destitution either because of failures in the system, or because their claim has been refused and they are appealing the decision? People are therefore being encouraged to support the many projects already in existence around the country by e.g. befriending, language classes, drop-in centres, material help – to find out more go to your diocesan co-ordinator (links below) or J&P contact or contact NJPN.
 
Others have been working to offer support to those on the move and in camps across Europe, and particularly those in Calais. Southwark and Westminster J&P have been supporting a group, ‘Seeking Sanctuary’ which has been helping migrants in Calais for some time. People are generally encouraged to give financial help, which can be done via CAFOD and CSAN. If you wish to donate material goods or volunteer to help, the website www.calaisaid.co.uk has updates of current needs and how to organise goods.
 
Over recent months we have seen the initial popular outpouring of sympathy for those trying to move across Europe turn to fear and xenophobia as the European Union has failed to rise to the challenge of a coherent response to welcome and resettle them, focussing rather on how to keep people out. As well as a practical challenge, this also raises questions about the fundamental values of the European Union and the UK. So there is a need for Justice and Peace people to engage with politicians to seek a just response to what is a long-term issue. In a letter to David Cameron from several NGOs in January these principles were set out:
 
-The UK should take a fair and proportionate share of refugees, both those already within the European Union and those still outside it.
-Safe and legal routes to the UK, as well as to the European Union, need to be established.
-There should be access to fair and thorough procedures to determine eligibility for international protection wherever it is sought.
 
Read the full letter here, and use it to write to your MP/MEP
 

An update from ‘Seeking Sanctuary’

Supportive Cards can be sent to exiles in the Calais camp.

If you wish to send cards of support for the refugees to the Secours Catholique Day Centre in Calais they’ll be passed on to people during the team’s daily visits to the camp.

Please bear in mind the following:

The vast majority of the people are Muslims: please do not be too overtly Christian in your messages.

Write in short sentences using simple words.

90% of the residents are young men, aged 15 to 25: choose cards that may suit their taste. (We suggest that you address cards to “An exile”; “An exiled family”, or “An exiled child”, which may provide scope for a little variety.)
Feel free to add a return address or your email address: you may get some replies.

The address: An Exile, chez Secours Catholique, 434 route de Saint Omer, 62100 CALAIS, FRANCE.

About ‘Seeking Sanctuary’. There are currently some 6000 migrants in Calais (December 2015) and more nearby. ‘Seeking Sanctuary’ aims to raise awareness about this situation and is organising basic humanitarian assistance through Faith Communities and Community Organisations in partnership with experienced aid agencies such as ‘Secours Catholique’.
For further information on how you or your organisation can help, contact Ben Bano on 07887 651117 or Phil Kerton on 01474 873802. To check the latest news, visit our website on www.seekingsanctuary.weebly.com.

Bishop Lynch calls for solidarity with migrants

Bishop Patrick Lynch urges us, as Christians:  “to face up to the shared responsibility of making the world a better and safer environment to live in” 

The statement reads:

I am deeply concerned over the deepening humanitarian crisis involving thousands of migrants unfolding in Calais. The crisis has developed over a decade and challenges us all, both as Christians and as Europeans. We must face up to this reality at various levels.

“First, in solidarity with the most vulnerable migrants we recognise the local pastoral, humanitarian, and compassionate response from the French Church and call on the French authorities to redouble their efforts in providing adequate reception facilities for migrants. We acknowledge the work done by faith organisations in France and the UK together with charities, agencies and the great generosity of families and individuals to the relief efforts. The task is immense and their contributions are most valued. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales will be making a material contribution to those efforts.

“Second, at an international level we are aware that the answer to the current migrant crisis lies beyond Calais. Estimates from the UNCHR indicate that “In the first six months of this year, 137,000 refugees and migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea, travelling in terrible conditions upon unsafe boats and dinghies”. The 2014 estimate for the same period was 75,000. Therefore in addition to addressing the humanitarian needs of the increasing numbers of migrants undertaking this treacherous journey we must examine the root causes of current migration from North Africa and the Middle East across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

“Third, we must face up to the shared responsibility of making the world a better and safer environment to live in. We must examine as a matter of urgency the arms trade that fuels armed conflict and civil war, climate change, unjust economic policies, poverty and corruption as some of the underlying causes of this fundamental global trend. The safety of vulnerable women and children who may fall prey to smugglers and human traffickers is paramount and must be addressed.

“Finally, the current migration crisis is complex and there are no easy solutions for governments, non–governmental organisations, faith groups and charities working on the field. However, governments, charities and humanitarian aid agencies should be encouraged to work together for a collaborative international response to the challenge in partnership with the countries of origin. Countries of origin must recognise that ‘the defence of migrants rights’ is viable and effective when based on a firm foundation of legal norms, and operates under the rule of law. (Caritas Europa 2009)”.

Bishop Patrick Lynch
Chair, Office for Migration Policy
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

Calais: immediate appeal and long-term solutions

Westminster J&P Commission Thursday July 30th 2015.

While all are horrified at the sufferings of the refugees and migrants in Calais, most in the UK are paralysed from action because of the huge issues raised.  If we ‘open the gates’, will this act as a magnet for thousands more refugees to come knocking on the UK door?  This could mean further competition for scarce housing and resources in the poor boroughs which are already coping with huge shortages.  If we continue to pour in extra security money, and simply make Calais a more effective barrier, we risk prolonging the distressing scenes in camp and Eurotunnel in Calais currently flashing onto our screens.

The long-term Christian response is not clear. In contrast, the Churches are not standing idle in France.  Thierry Cuenot, head of emergency services at Secours Catholique-Caritas France, has pooled resources with 3 other NGOs in Calais to provide emergency humanitarian aid in ‘The Jungle’ camp in the Calais sand-dunes.  With Medecins du Monde, Solidarité Nationale and Secours Islamique, the volunteers of his NGO are carrying out an emergency operation as if in a war zone or a natural disaster, in order to help the 3000 or so migrants.  Cuenot explained in an interview on Radio Chretienne de France on Monday that there had been an excellent response from volunteers for the summer months, and they were working with migrants on a partnership basis to set up more, and more permanent, shelters, even though the space had originally been allocated for 1500 people.  Solidarite Nationale was putting in sanitary structures, while Medecins du Monde was providing health care.

On this side of the Channel help is also being organised, though in smaller and less coordinated ways.  A small Kent charity, www.seekingsanctuary.weebly.com, is collecting supplies for Secours Catholique on a regular basis.  Ben Bano and his wife, the organisers, are taking foods, cooking utensils, crockery, books, games, toiletries and footwear to the Secours Catholique centre, which has supported migrants in Calais for the past 15 years, since the Sangatte camp, while the London Catholic Worker has taken blankets, food and even bicycles across the Channel, supplying also the Secours Islamique base.

APPEAL: Ben has asked Westminster Justice and Peace to organise parishes to collect goods as described above.  We are waiting for more details about transport and delivery.

If parishes are able to organise this themselves they could contact Ben  at migrantsupport@aol.com

Meanwhile we look forward to the Churches on both sides of the Channel holding discussions about this distressing situation.  A Pax Christi speaker declared at the recent Justice and Peace National Conference that there needs to be more burden-sharing in Europe of the refugee and migrant issue.  We at Westminster Justice and Peace wholeheartedly agree.

For further comment, contact Barbara Kentish on 07758630961