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.

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