April Update from Seeking Sanctuary

April Update from Seeking Sanctuary

Ben writes: The need for roots

How hard it must be to be separated from our roots – it takes real courage to leave our family, our village, our town, and all that is dear to us.
I have been reflecting on the thoughts of the philosopher Simone Weil who wrote a book on the theme of rootlessness. She wrote: ‘All cultures are rooted throughout humanity. We need these roots. We need a sense of belonging to something that is bigger than us, across space and time, and we underestimate that need at our peril’.
To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognised need of the human soul …. a human being has roots by virtue of his real, active participation in the life of a community which preserves expectations for the future’. and: ‘Whoever within his own soul, and in human relations, escapes the dominion of force is loved but is loved sorrowfully because of the threat of destruction hanging over him.’ 
In the face of death, remaining moderate is superhuman’ …
What wise words! How true this is when we remember the plight of migrants not just in their home territory but in a lonely hotel in the UK. Those who have to wait months or even years for decisions feel this sense of rootlessness even more acutely.
A thought: What does the instability in Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan and South
Sudan have in common? These countries were all ruled by the British in the last 150 years. 
‘The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil’ (Hannah Arendt)

TV, newspaper, and Internet comment predominantly concerns so-called “illegal” migration and provocative statements by politicians. We try here, as an alternative, to indicate a few matters that have largely gone unreported in the mainstream organs during March.
Despite claims of urgency, Parliament broke for its regular recess without resolving the “ping pong” process flipping the Rwanda Bill between the Lords and Commons. Apparently, we will next see debate on the Rwanda Bill on Monday 15 April, despite various opinions that a) it isn’t going to stop people coming, b) Rwanda isn’t ready yet, and c) there seems to be no way of getting people there.
Towards the end of March there were reports that France is engaged in dangerous pull-back tactics to try to turn boats crossing the Channel back to France. France has previously declined to do this (at least partly supported by UK funds) on the basis that it is against international maritime law. 

Also in March, the Guardian reported a Home Office response to a Freedom of Information (“FoI”) request for data on deaths in asylum accommodation indicating that there had been five deaths between January and June last year. Another organisation contacted the newspaper to say that it had received a response with a figure of 14 deaths!
Official sources said that the reason for the large discrepancy was officials’ interpretation of the word “in,” so that in one case, deaths occurring after transfer to hospital had been omitted because the FoI question did not ask about deaths where the “last known address” had been asylum accommodation.
The National Audit Office has reported on Home Office plans and progress in increasing the amount of asylum accommodation available. The Home Office anticipates spending £4.7
billion on asylum support in the year to March 2024. £3.1 billion of this is to be spent on hotels, up from a figure of £2.3 billion in 2022-23. Having originally assessed that large sites would be around £94 million cheaper than hotels, it now seems that they will cost £46
million more.
In parallel, Byline Times reports that Britannia Hotels makes tens of millions a year from housing asylum seekers in harmful conditions.
David Neal, sacked as the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration in February, has written about concerns over the Home Office’s malfunctioning ‘Atlas’ casework system. Rather than “automating” asylum, citizenship and visa applications, Atlas
has instead caused serious delays and errors with a series of bizarre glitches. For example, some figures have to be entered separately into different parts of the system, an exercise that is a frequent source of needless discrepancies.
The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) UK has joined partners to highlight widespread malnutrition and food insecurity among people seeking asylum in London, calling for action to be taken at local and national levels. A report draws upon accounts of people with experience across the different stages of the asylum process – including hotels, dispersal accommodation, and destitution following refusal.
In all cases, people seriously struggled to meet their nutritional needs and those of their children, with a significant negative impact on both physical and mental health. There is evidence of serious health and safety deficiencies in food provided in hotels, including raw or undercooked meat and failure to accommodate medical dietary requirements, sometimes leading to hospitalisation; a chronic struggle to make ends meet and eat enough whilst living on asylum support; and difficulty managing long-term health problems in a context of destitution, very low income, and lack of agency over what food one eats

On Wednesday 6 March, the UN’s International Organization for Migration said that at least 8,565 people died on migration routes worldwide in 2023, making it the deadliest year since records began a decade ago. Figures for deaths in and near the English Channel are among those that have risen.
Since our last update. On 29 February, a number of people fell into the water from a boat, and one was initially rescued but did not live long. Additionally, at least two bodies (reports vary) were seen floating but could not be recovered immediately.
On 3 March, a 7-year-old Iraqi girl, Rola, was drowned in the canalised River Aa in Watten, between Gravelines and St Omer under the eyes of her eight-months pregnant mother, her father (who was taken into custody) and her three brothers during of the sinking of their stolen boat.
The location reflects a trend to attempt to start journeys inland to avoid coastal police patrols. During the previous night, a 27-yr-old Iraqi, Jumaa Al Hasan, disappeared without trace when police used tear gas to try to stop vessels using the canal. His body was recovered on 19 March.
A further tragedy occurred on 1 April, on a road by the Loon-Plage, refugee camp near Dunkirk. A migrant aged 30 to 35 was stabbed to death in the afternoon.

Phil writes: This poem was drawn back to my attention a couple of weeks ago. It deserves to be widely shared.

They have no need of our help
So do not tell me
These haggard faces could belong to you or me
Should life have dealt a different hand
We need to see them for who they really are
Chancers and scroungers
Layabouts and loungers
With bombs up their sleeves
Cut-throats and thieves
They are not
Welcome here
We should make them
Go back to where they came from
They cannot
Share our food
Share our homes
Share our countries
Instead let us
Build a wall to keep them out
It is not okay to say
These are people just like us
A place should only belong to those who are born there
Do not be so stupid to think that
The world can be looked at another way
(now read from bottom to top)

This “reverso poem” was posted in March 2016 by the pseudonymous poet and writer, Brian Bilston. He began publishing short and pithy, often humorous, poems on Twitter, which were then spread widely on social media and has been described as “The Poet Laureate of Twitter” and as “The Banksy of the Poetry World.”

More food for thought:
“These young men risking their lives on the boats, they’ll be anything from 20 to 30. Which means that they are figures of incredible investment. Somebody’s given birth to these kids, brought them up, spent money on them. They are a colossal loss for the place they have left … I never understand why it is not presented for what it is: a story of third world subsidy for advanced economies.” (An ‘Observer’ quote in April, from artist and filmmaker, Sir John Akomfrah, whose family fled Ghana after his father was killed following a failed CIA-backed plot to overthrow Nkrumah in 1966.)
May the Easter Season bring you new resolve and a refreshed outlook.

Ben + Phil.
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‘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 the 2000 or so exiles who are stuck in north-western France, mistakenly expecting a welcome in the UK.

They need food, water, good counsel and clothes, which are accepted, sorted and distributed by several organisations, including two 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 www.seekingsanctuary.weebly.com