Seeking Sanctuary: April Update

We start this month’s update with some positive news – it was reported recently that a number of Sicilian villages and towns which experienced decades of depopulation have now had new life breathed into them by the arrival of migrants – shops are re-opening, and schools as well as health and social services have been given a new boost. An example of for other parts of Europe?  At a time when much of Europe’s population is ageing, is this a time that we should be welcoming energetic young people rather than vilifying them as unwanted arrivals? 
Elsewhere we are heartened by the constant stream of goodwill to alleviating the terrible conditions faced by migrants in Northern France and beyond. From a donation raised through Lenten offerings in a Cotswold village to the help provided by other well-wishers – all these are signs that our fellow sisters and brothers in humanity have not been forgotten. 

There is also growing consciousness among some civic authorities that more needs to be done to deal with the injustices faced by migrants. It was heartening to read of a Conference held in Grand-Synthe near Dunkirk organised by the Mayor Damien Careme who has gained a reputation for taking a much more humanitarian stance than his counterpart in Calais – we have also learned that he opened a  Centre for women and children to provide protection during the worst of the winter weather – if only there were more like him… 

Last month we were heartened by the news that the French authorities would be taking responsibility for provision of meals. But this sentiment was short lived: we next heard that a large number of migrants, particularly Eritreans, were boycotting these distributions, particularly as the same police who kept order at the food distributions were destroying possessions and making sleeping bags and tents unusable. There seems to be little or no movement on the transfer of children with UK family connections from the Calais area. And meanwhile the tragic accidents continue – we heard of the latest one involving a young man who ran or fell in front of a lorry and died late on Good Friday. 

The distribution sites have often been in places where the recipients have to walk a considerable distance, and so the Refugee Community Kitchen has had to step up its operations and is again serving meals, whilst the state-run operation has modified its methods, no longer servicing only in a grim compound, but also going out to places where migrants gather… The clothing and other needs remain the same but women’s and children’s clothing is now being accepted for Dunkirk (see above) – contact us for further details as to how to get it to the Centre. 

In closing, we assure every one of our good wishes in this Easter season, and add this news from the Catholic Worker House. The Anglican diocese of Europe has chosen our work and house for this year’s Lent Appeal. The diocese has made 4 short video’s that are available online on the diocesan website about the work we do.  … Please have a look at them. For us this is good news, that the work we do and the problems here in Calais are being talked about and are being prayed for in the different parishes within the Anglican diocese of Europe. 

Ben + Phil. 
‘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