Seeking Sanctuary: May Update – Journeys through Hostility


Dear Friends

First, an announcement that we will soon be asking you to take an action that is important – at least, to us. New regulations on data protection come into force later this month, with one consequence being that we must obtain and record your explicit and informed permission to continue to include you on our mailing list. Please do nothing yet, but watch out for an appropriately worded email that we will soon be sending, and act upon it!
Our theme  this month is: ‘Let’s Share the Journey’. This is a worldwide campaign started by Pope Francis and Caritas Internationalis – a confederation of over 160 diverse Catholic groups who work at grass-roots in almost every country to reach out to the poor, vulnerable and excluded, regardless of race or religion, and build a world based on justice and goodwill. The campaign aims to promote  a ‘culture of encounter’  by reaching out to migrants, changing perceptions regarding the 60 million people in the world who are now estimated have been displaced from their homes through conflict, persecution and other causes.
Pope Francis is concerned that two new international agreements on refugees and migration will be just and effective. They are scheduled to be adopted during the UN General Assembly in September, with the intention that they will provide a framework for policy proposals and practical measures at a global level.
You may be interested in organising or taking part in an event to mark the ‘global week of action’ during Refugee Week from 18 to 24 June this year. Some suggestions include a shared meal with those who are desperately trying to build a new life for themselves and their families. In the words of the Pope ‘I can … see in this person a human being with dignity identical to my own,  a creature infinitely loved by the Father, an image of God, …’. CAFODhas suggestions for action on the ‘Share the Journey’ theme.
And all this is  in stark contrast to another phrase that is still in vogue at the Home Office – the ‘hostile environment’ – it was confirmed last week that a whole generation of legitimate British citizens have fallen foul of this policy. In fact those seeking sanctuary today experience a hostile environment at every stage of their journey – from the initial trauma of being displaced to the hurdles they have to overcome even to get as far as Calais. Even if they manage to arrive in this country they are excluded from basic services such as health care if they cannot produce the required documentation.
And nowhere has the  culture of hostility has been more keenly felt than among the ‘lost’ children who came to the UK from Calais.  A report last week pointed to the increase in mental health problems child survivors of rape, torture and trafficking due to the lengthy delays in dealing with their cases.  The children ‘rescued’ from Calais in 2016 as well as the 350 ‘Dubs’ children face up to two years delay in having their cases resolved, as discussed in a recentnewspaper article.
A boy who was brought over to join his sibling from Afghanistan who has refugee status faces being deported because he could not cope with the interview process imposed by the Home Office. Even an initial screening interview involves a three month wait. If the Home Office can resolve the cases of the Windrush generation in two weeks, cannot they do better with these traumatised child migrants?
And delays also grow in seeing a start to any action to follow up the key announcement of the May/Macron summit meeting at Sandhurst in January, that child migrants seeking to escape Calais and come to Britain would have their claims processed within 25 days! At least, Lord Dubs succeeded in adding an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill in the House of Lords. If accepted by the Commons, this will ensure that, after leaving the Union, the UK will continue to apply the “Dublin III” regulation on family reunion, which has provided child refugees with vital procedure for legal transfer to the UK. “Calais Action” asks that MPs are lobbied now, to make sure that the amendment survives – see attachment to this message.
Perhaps we should follow the example of the Emmaus charity which temporarily installed a number of open doors on the snow-covered 1850m high Montgenèvre pass in the French Alps, a point thought to have been used by Hannibal, and now favoured by migrants for crossing the frontier from Italy. Emmaus highlights Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which celebrates its 50th birthday in December. Namely, that: (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state; (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to their country.
Our first visits to Calais in May took place at the very start of the month when Ben and Phil separately took over  quantities of ‘Vinnie bags’ produced for rough sleepers by the Society of St Vincent de Paul in London, as well as clothes kindly donated from  a variety of sources. It was good to see that the Care4Calais warehouse was a hive of activity, sending van-loads of aid to Brussels, Dunkirk and Paris, as was Auberge des Migrants warehouse operated by ‘Help Refugees’ alongside the Refugee Community Kitchen.
We are now experiencing occasional runs of a few days of summer weather, but these hide the fact that the temperatures in Calais still fall to single figures at night, and that rough sleepers are rendered yet more cold when storms blow in from the North Sea or across the flat former battlefields of the wars of the 20th century. Humanitarian aid is still vital and in conclusion, we are delighted to praise the example of the young people of Kent’s Bruderhof Community who have posted avideoof their return journey to Calais, where they helped to fill and distribute much-needed bottles of drinking water. (This follows up their Februaryjourney, which we helped to facilitate.)
Thank you for your continued support.

Phil + Ben.

‘Seeking Sanctuary’ aims to raise awareness about people displaced from their homes and to channel basic humanitarian assistance from Faith Communities and Community Organisations via partnerships with experienced aid workers. Our special concern is for those who arrive in north-western France, mistakenly expecting a welcome in the UK. Almost all the 8,000+ migrants in Calais in October 2016 were moved away, hopefully to better accommodation. 1616 unaccompanied minors also left, along with hundreds of vulnerable women and children, hoping  that claims to stay in the UK or France would be processed. Many judge that they have been let down, and hundreds have returned to sleep rough near Calais and along the coast. The Grande-Synthe camp near Dunkirk burnt down in April 2017, displacing around 1400 people, over 950 of them moved elsewhere, whilst the rest remain nearby, joined by scores of newcomers weekly. 

They need food, good counsel and clothes, which are accepted, sorted and distributed by several Calais warehouses, which also supply needs further afield.

Further information from Ben Bano on 07887 651117 or Phil Kerton on 01474 873802. See our latest news at