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Campaigners seek immediate entry for Calais children

09 September 2016


Life in the Jungle: migrants walk around the northern area of the refugee camp in Calais, France

Life in the Jungle: migrants walk around the northern area of the refugee camp in Calais, France

THE Government is under pressure from the Archbishop of Canterbury, charities, and campaigners to allow the more than 380 refugee children currently stranded in Calais who have the right to come to the UK to do so with immediate effect.

Of the 387 children on the list, compiled by Citizens UK, 178 have close family ties to the UK, and a further 209 are eligible under the terms of an amendment, tabled by Lord Dubs, to give unaccompanied children safe refuge in the country.

The Archbishop of Canterbury addressed the subject in the House of Lords on Tuesday: “We are still having continual reports of delays for really quite young children who are not being brought across. Does the Minister [Baroness Williams of Trafford] not agree that where children — particularly young ones — have families in this country, there is no reason why they should not be brought across within the day?”

The Dubs amendment was accepted by the Government in May (News, 6 May) — after previously being rejected in the House of Commons (News, 29 April) — on the provision that the number of children (originally 3000) was not specified.

But Lord Dubs said this week: “I am deeply saddened that, despite repeated calls from me and others, the Government still seems to be dragging its feet on the commitments made when the amendment in my name was accepted.”

He called on the Prime Minister, and the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, to take immediate action. “Now that the new government has had some weeks to settle in after the EU referendum vote, there really is no excuse for any further delay.”

Christian Aid and Citizens UK are to host a summit on Saturday to “take stock” of the refugee crisis, and press the Government to do more to welcome those fleeing conflict overseas. Members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees, and the Labour spokeswoman for refugees, Yvette Cooper, are among those due to participate in the discussion at the Saffron Centre in Birmingham.

It comes after more than 100 faith leaders, celebrities, and campaigners gathered outside the Home Office last Friday for a vigil to mark a year since the body of Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian, was photographed washed up on a beach in Turkey (News, 11 September 2015).

A spokesman for Christian Aid, Alex Jones, said: “We believe everyone deserves a safe place to call home. While many churches and communities across the UK are united in welcoming those seeking refuge, the response of the UK Government has not matched the scale of the crisis.”

Meanwhile, a chain of French protesters blocked access to the Channel Tunnel and the Calais ferry terminal on Monday, in a protest against the continued existence of the refugee camp there. It ended that night after the French government reportedly assured protesters that the camp would be completely dismantled “in a single step” at an unspecified time.

Churches and charities continue to gather donations for the more than 9000 asylum-seekers currently stranded in and around the port-town. Secours Catholique (Caritas France) is asking for donations of men’s clothes, blankets, sleeping bags, bicycles, and washing powder.

Food donations are also in short supply. The co-director of the Christian charity Seeking Sanctuary, Phil Kerton, said this week: “The migrants in Calais face up to a four-hour wait in the sun to get their one meal of the day; so it is no wonder if tensions rise. . . The ‘official’ kitchen only serves 3900 of the 9000-plus meals actually needed if people are to eat once a day.”

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