Things have moved on a long way since August, when we publicised the collaborative outreach work for the Calais migrants on both sides of the Channel. Early on in this crisis Westminster Justice and Peace was contacted by Marian Hopkins of Our Lady and St Vincent Parish Potters Bar, who asked how one might send funds. No easy mechanism existed then, and we phoned Secours Catholique (Caritas France) in Calais for bank details. Marian pursued the matter, and 5 weeks later she has told us that her parish has raised £4,233.76 in a collection for Calais migrants, and the money has been transferred to Secours Catholique! Please email us if you want to raise money for this appeal and need assistance on international bank transfers.
Congratulations to Marian and all the parishioners of Potters Bar!
Other sterling work has been carried out by St Mellitus Church at Tollington Park, which has sent vanloads of bedding and clothing to Kent on behalf of several parishes such as Notre Dame Leicester Square, the Vietnamese Church in Bow, and currently, Holy Apostles in Pimlico. There is ongoing contact between the London Catholic Worker and Calais. Going in person to stay in the camp, Dan and Juan from the Catholic Worker team were present in the recent raid, and have spent time sleeping under canvas. Only 2 days earlier, Jo Siedlecka from Independent Catholic News and myself had seen a much quieter scene, with a peaceful rally.
The churches are doing all they can. The Catholic Bishops have issued two statements calling for a generous welcome for refugees, and supporting the Government’s offer of asylum for the Syrian refugees in particular. CARITAS Westminster is compiling a database of possible support for refugee families across the diocese. Caritas Social Action Network has set up a fund to transfer financial support to Secours Catholique in Calais. Many people have collected and delivered clothing, blankets and other goods either to Calais itself or to depots in Kent.
Archbishop Peter Smith visited the Jungle camp in mid-September, signing an agreement with the Bishop of Arras, Mgr Jean-Paul Jaeger, and the Anglican Bishop of Dover, Bishop Trevor Wilmott, to work together to welcome refugees to our respective countries and to ask for their rights to be respected.
As Marian Hopkins of Potters Bar told us: ‘We need to write to our MP’s to try to put pressure on the government to do something, it is unbelievable really’.