Remember the Calais Children! – Parliamentary Debate

YOU HAVE GIVEN MONEY, CLOTHES, FOOD, TOILETRIES, TO KEEP THE WOLF FROM THE DOOR FOR YOUNG PEOPLE IN CALAIS!  NOW LET YOUR MP KNOW HOW YOU HAVE HELPED, WHAT YOU THINK, AND WHAT YOU WANT DONE!

Remember the Calais Children!  – Parliamentary Debate

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Safe Passage, a lobbying group allied to Citizens UK, is urging as many as possible to write to their MPs, asking them to attend a Parliamentary debate on October 24th, about the specific issue of stranded young migrants in Calais.  It is known that the numbers run into 100s, and that they are being very roughly treated by French police, who are implementing a policy of not allowing a resurgence of the ‘Jungle’.   To abandon children to this treatment so near to home is a scandal, and UK immigration law is being flouted, as we do not honour the Dubs Amendment, which would allow any unaccompanied minor to enter, and the Dublin 3 Agreement, which would allow one to enter if he or she had family in the UK.

What’s the ASK?

Safe Passage asks as many as possible

a) to write to their MPs (helpful bullet points will follow, as well as being on their website), asking to meet  them and ask them to attend and speak at the debate on October 24th,   AND

b) to be part of the action at Westminster which starts at 12 noon, with a ‘World Citizens’ choir of activists and refugees, followed by lobbying, all before the debate itself.  

Justice and Peace will shortly publish suggested bullet points to go in your letter, (it’s suggested that this should not be an email, but a paper, even handwritten! letter, as this gets taken more seriously), but meanwhile try and plan a letter writing session with friends, to get a letter in the post arriving at Parliament by October 20th.

See website www.safepassage.org.uk  

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Very successful appeal for unaccompanied minors in Calais to be extended!

Donations arriving in CalaisWe are very grateful to all those who were able to respond, despite the holiday period, to our appeal for goods, clothes and cash for young people in Calais.  Our main contact in Calais is Brother  Johannes Maertens, who with other Catholic Worker members is running a small house for young people stranded in Calais with no means of moving on.  We raised an astonishing £4300 in 5 weeks, and the amount has shot up again in the last week.  Brother Johannes was very grateful and continues to do sterling work there.   We have extended the deadline for donations to November 5th, for those who would still like to contribute.  Here is the link to our Justgiving page.

We are also supporting other charities, such as Secours Catholique in France, and Safe Passage here in the UK are working on the long term issues such as caring for the other migrants (including women and children) drifting back to Calais, and working for legal entry for those who qualify under the Dubs Amendment and Dublin 3 agreement.

Calais: Nobody should live like this – report from Westminster J&P visit

‘The overwhelming evidence of violence inflicted by the French authorities and the police on children is one of the more shocking findings of this inquiry, whether it be the indiscriminate use of truncheons or the tear gassing of children and their sleeping bags. The UK must work with our European counterparts to ensure that in all cases safeguarding processes are prioritised, the rights of the child and the child’s best interests are upheld’. (‘Nobody should live like this’ Report of Human Trafficking Foundation)


On a wet, cold, end-of-August day, four members of Westminster Justice and Peace left London for the Catholic Worker house in Calais. It was our third or fourth ‘day-trip’ in two years. We arrived to find Brother Johannes tired and preoccupied with health and practical issues in the house. A volunteer sister had accompanied someone to hospital, while some young people were waiting for showers and clothes washing. Johannes took us quickly to a point near the former ‘Jungle’ camp, where several charities were serving hot meals to 40 or 50 young people who looked damp and chilled in the un-summery weather. We had arrived at the tail end of the proceedings.

Help Refugees, Calais Kitchen, Auberge des Migrants and others have banded together to provide nearly 2000 meals a day (lunch and supper) to those who have come back to Calais still hoping to cross the Channel by one means or another. From there we were taken to the far side of the city to another industrial estate where these big charities take deliveries and have a giant industrial size kitchen to cook the meals in large steel containers. Brother Johannes is able to get a good deal of food for the house from this distribution centre.

We were able to tell this very energetic Franciscan brother about the generous donations from parishes and individuals who responded fast to his appeal, which Westminster J&P publicised at the end of July. We raised an astonishing £3,500-plus sum, which Brother Johannes will put towards the drop-in work of Maria Skobstova Catholic Worker House. The bills for electricity and water, alone, are shooting up as some weeks more than 100 showers and clothes-wash-and-dries are offered.

The charity Seeking Sanctuary, has been monitoring and helping the migrant situation in Calais for so many years. They quote the Human Trafficking Foundation as follows:

‘Rt Hon Fiona Mactaggart and Baroness Butler-Sloss GBE, recent Chairs of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking, oversaw the production of a report (ii) from an independent UK inquiry on 10th July, “Nobody deserves to live this way”. It examines the situation of separated and unaccompanied minors in parts of Europe, including France, and was sponsored by the Human Trafficking Foundation. It concludes that protecting children on the move is an issue of child protection and prevention of serious crime as well as immigration. There is overwhelming evidence of violence inflicted by French authorities and police, whether the indiscriminate use of truncheons or the tear gassing of children and their sleeping bags. With the premature end of the “Dubs” scheme and a police-induced mistrust of officials, young people see their routes to the UK as paying people smugglers or becoming entangled with traffickers. The UK should devote resources to devising legal schemes for transferring young people, with more transparency in procedures, improved liaison with charities working with children, and better dissemination of relevant information in appropriate language and formats. (see www.seekingsanctuary.weebly.com for further reports and information).

It is clear from just one short visit, that proper procedures are essential so as to respond to the needs and demands of these young people. A Home Office presence in Calais to deal with applications is a minimum requirement. Indeed, the report, Nobody should live like this maintains.

The administration of the Dubs scheme cannot be a solely London based exercise it requires multi-agency teams of specialists on the ground where most children are located, including Calais and Dunkirk to build confidence in safe routes and resistance to traffickers.

After seeing young people abandoned on the edges of the Calais industrial estates, we couldn’t agree more.

The summer in Calais has been difficult but volunteers are very worried about what will happen to the young migrants on the north French coast once the cold weather sets in.

Help a Calais Minor!

Justice and Peace has launched an appeal for the young people in Calais who are surviving hand-to-mouth as the French authorities try to prevent any humanitarian aid on the streets. See our newsletter for more information.

 

CONTRIBUTIONS:

You can contribute via our Justgiving page –

https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/rcdiocese-westminster/helpacalaisminor

We at Justice and Peace will also be collecting items as requested by Brother Johannes, who lists them as follows:

Donations and gifts are welcome     We can use:    For Personal use:  Shower gel, shampoo, toothbrushes, body cream or oil (like Vaseline, Nivea), Socks 36-43  Boxer shorts S/M  (No Large please), Sport shoes 39-40-41, Pocket nail cutter  (Also helpful: Power bank mobiles).   

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Clothes for young men are welcome, BUT PLEASE FOR NOW ONLY small size T-shirts and jeans!  WE HAVE ENOUGH TOWELS AND TOOTHPASTE thank you!   For the house:   Disinfectant,  All-purpose cleaner, Anti-scalant, Toilet cleaner, Washing powder or liquid (mostly color wash, Laundry Stain remover, Softener, Calgon, Washing-up liquid, Tablets and liquid for the dishwasher, Toilet paper.   Food:   Ground Coffee  and lots of MILK – the youngest ones really drink a lot of it. (J&P advise: Buy it at French supermarkets if you visit, or send money.

For small amounts, send the money via our Justgiving website.

For large amounts (making it worth paying the exchange rate), go to Maria Skobstova bank account direct:

Association Maria Skobtsova.  Here are the bank details:  IBAN: FR7615629026250002172700193   BIC: CMCIFR2A Bank: CCM Calais, 85 rue Mollien, 62100 Calais, France

 

CALAIS UPDATE AND APPEAL FROM MARIA SKOBTSOVA HOUSE

by Brother Johannes Maertens

The house offers emergency hospitality to young and vulnerable refugees in the Calais area and Justice and Peace have visited several times in the past (Ed). 

Next to accommodation we offer also on almost a daily base to young and vulnerable refugees a shower, a meal, tea, do their laundry and we offer them to spend some time in a house.  Through the offer of this basic help we can accompany more than 10 unaccompanied minors under 16 and many other young refugees.  As we are serving more people than ever before we are using more of our resources than planned.    

Donations and gifts are welcome     We can use:    For Personal use:  Shower gel, shampoo, toothbrushes, body cream or oil (like Vaseline, Nivea), Socks 36-43  Boxer shorts S/M  (No Large please), Sport shoes 39-40-41, Pocket nail cutter  (Also helpful: Power bank mobiles).   Clothes for young men are welcome, BUT PLEASE FOR NOW ONLY small size T-shirts and jeans!  WE HAVE ENOUGH TOWELS AND TOOTHPASTE thank you!   For the house:   Disinfectant,  All-purpose cleaner, Anti-scalant, Toilet cleaner, Washing powder or liquid (mostly color wash, Laundry Stain remover, Softener, Calgon, Washing-up liquid, Tablets and liquid for the dishwasher, Toilet paper.   Food:   Ground Coffee  and lots of MILK – the youngest ones really drink a lot of it. (J&P advise: Buy it at French supermarkets if you visit, or send money, as suggested below) Financial support is welcome!   Association Maria Skobtsova.  Here are the bank details:  IBAN: FR761562902625ms. 0002172700193   BIC: CMCIFR2A Bank: CCM Calais, 85 rue Mollien, 62100 Calais

NB  Justice and Peace will probably make a trip towards the end of August to take gifts as listed above.  Please get in touch if you wish to contribute items. Barbara Kentish

Bishop Paul McAleenan responds to Trump Travel Ban

‘Justice Violated and Hardship Imposed’ by Trump Travel Ban

‘What has President Trump’s travel ban achieved? Initially amazement and confusion, now as it is enforced extreme hardship precisely for those to whom we should be offering hope and a chance of a new life. Opposition to this decision goes beyond any political agenda, it is being rejected by those who clearly see that with this ban justice is being violated and hardship wilfully imposed.

‘Those who have the welfare of all humanity, especially refugees, at heart, must continue to let President Trump know that his protectionist policies are not the way forward. These policies do not correspond with the rest of the world’s attempt to alleviate the hardship of those who are long familiar with violence, fear and impoverishment.

‘One of the principles of Catholic social teaching is solidarity and the promotion of peace. Never was there a better time to proclaim it.  Those who believe in it will feel obliged to oppose President Trump’s policies, the proposed wall between Mexico and the US, and now the travel ban.’

President Trump issued the executive order entitled, ‘Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States’, on Friday 27 January, International Holocaust Memorial Day.

The executive order suspends the refugee admission programme for 120 days and prioritises refugee claims of religious-based persecution, provided it is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality. It halts the admission of Syrian refugees and restricts entry to no more than 50,000 refugees in the fiscal year 2017.

The executive order further imposes a travel ban on nationals from a number of countries of ‘particular concern’ (seven, predominately Muslim, countries have been named) and introduces a vetting system for everybody entering the US.

This statement originally appeared on the Diocese of Westminster website, www.rcdow.org.uk

Statement from the USCCB on 27 January Executive Order

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration has issued the following statement regarding the recent US Executive order on migration policy:

President Donald J. Trump issued today an Executive Order addressing the U.S. refugee admissions program and migration to the United States, generally. The executive order virtually shuts down the refugee admissions program for 120 days, reduces the number of refugees to be admitted to the United States this year from 110,000 to 50,000 individuals, and indefinitely suspends the resettlement of Syrian refugees. In addition, it prioritizes religious minorities suffering from religious persecution, thereby deprioritizing all other persons fleeing persecution; calls for a temporary bar on admission to the United States from a number of countries of particular concern (all Muslim majority); and imposes a yet-to-be determined new vetting process for all persons seeking entry to the United States.

Regarding the Executive Order’s halt and reduction of admissions, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration, stated:

“We strongly disagree with the Executive Order’s halting refugee admissions. We believe that now more than ever, welcoming newcomers and refugees is an act of love and hope. We will continue to engage the new administration, as we have all administrations for the duration of the current refugee program, now almost forty years. We will work vigorously to ensure that refugees are humanely welcomed in collaboration with Catholic Charities without sacrificing our security or our core values as Americans, and to ensure that families may be reunified with their loved ones.”

Regarding the Executive Order’s ban on Syrian refugees, the prioritization of religious minorities suffering from religious persecution, Bishop Vásquez added:

“The United States has long provided leadership in resettling refugees. We believe in assisting all those who are vulnerable and fleeing persecution, regardless of their religion. This includes Christians, as well as Yazidis and Shia Muslims from Syria, Rohingyas from Burma, and other religious minorities. However, we need to protect all our brothers and sisters of all faiths, including Muslims, who have lost family, home, and country. They are children of God and are entitled to be treated with human dignity. We believe that by helping to resettle the most vulnerable, we are living out our Christian faith as Jesus has challenged us to do.”

Moving forward after the announcement, Bishop Vásquez concluded:

“Today, more than 65 million people around the world are forcibly displaced from their homes. Given this extraordinary level of suffering, the U.S. Catholic Bishops will redouble their support for, and efforts to protect, all who flee persecution and violence, as just one part of the perennial and global work of the Church in this area of concern.”

Is the Calais camp really closed?

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‘Migrants have gravitated to the North French coast for the last 17 years,’ we were told, on our Justice and Peace visit to France on 3rd-4th November.  ‘And we will wait just a few weeks for them to start drifting back to seek access to the UK all over again’.  This is the background to the highly publicised Jungle camp clearances over the last 2 weeks.

Westminster Justice and Peace were visiting Calais to take food and toiletries from St John Vianney parish and to find out what the needs were after the Jungle camp clearances.  Our first stop was at Ste Marie Skobstova Catholic Worker House, to leave the goods and make contact.  Brother Johannes Maertens,  explained that the house was operating like a hospice at the moment.  We saw young men with, respectively, a broken arm, leg and jaw, but could not find out why, due to language barriers.  One young man with cancer needed supporting in hospital  Johannes himself was exhausted.  Other guests had had to leave in case there was a check up on their documentation.  The food gifts were hugely important as the house had been feeding at least 11-12 people a night, and sometimes up to 20 or more.

Johannes, and Simon Jones – a Baptist minister from Bromley, took us to see the last of the shelters being demolished – on Thursday morning it was the Sudanese mosque being squashed like balsawood and dropped in a skip by a giant claw crusher.  Johannes, Secours Catholique workers and a Muslim French woman managed to save, between them, the last cross and  several of the paintings of the Ethiopian makeshift church, and  a homemade metal crescent from one of the mosques. Everyone was anxious to have evidence of the symbols of hope that had kept many keeping on striving for survival in the ‘Jungle’ camp.  Father Joe found a good working bicycle, and I a French-English dictionary.  We wondered about the hopes that all these abandoned objects represented.  The authorities did seem to have respected the sacred spaces of church and mosque, waiting till after dispersal to clear them, and had allowed the volunteers to salvage mementos.

We found the Jules Ferry purpose-built refugee centre, and witnessed the last buses taking the women and children away to the CAOs – reception-orientation centres of which around 300 have been set up throughout France.  Dozens of security police were in attendance, but the compound and surroundings were fairly deserted.  We waved as each coach left – taking refugees to some new unknown.

Next we visited the coordinator of the Secours-Catholique vestiaire, the newly-acquired clothing storage and distribution depot.  Marie-Christine Descamps has worked there as a volunteer for 10 years, and the warehouse, recently transferred from a smaller building, showed a huge amount of her and others’ careful planning.  Clothes, sorted by size and type, had been distributed on specific days over two-week periods – men’s on one day, women and children on another, shoes on another, and so on, to avoid chaos, and promote dignity.  Marie-Christine organises 25 or more volunteers twice a week, not only sorting and distributing, but also providing a safe space during that day, with snacks, tea and coffee.  She smiled: ‘Your English teabags – in wholesale quantities, not available in France, would be appreciated!’

Our bed-and-breakfast hostess – a retired teacher – filled out this volunteer picture:  she has been helping in the camp and elsewhere on the coast for several years, and has supported Ethiopan men in particular, one of whom obtained asylum in France, and is now signed up to a programme of integration.    Three are now in England, travelling by what means she didn’t know.  She told us that there had been many schemes of soup runs, and informal aid on the coast going back 17 years, from the closing of the Sangatte camp in 2002, through major expulsions in 2009, 2012 and 2014.  The recent phenomenon was merely much more of the same trend: only in mega-proportions.  ‘They will drift back’, she said, as did Brother Johannes.  The UK is the only hope for many who feel they have lost everything else but this gleam of possibility.

Our last port of call was to try and visit the newer, more secure camp in a Dunkirk suburb, set up by Médecins Sans Frontières, and now managed by the local authority of Grande Synthe.  We arrived at the entry barrier, and explained we were looking for ways to support migrants, post-jungle clearance, but were turned away since Westminster Diocese Justice and Peace is not a registered charity there!  We could apply, officials said, if we went to the Town Hall, just a few minutes’ drive away.  The Town Hall,alas,  told us the system had changed, and to go back to explain this  (we now know Grande Synthe main street well).  The young kiosk officials did their best to persuade the camp director to let us in but it was not to be.  While annoying for us, it is reassuring that this place offers inhabitants some protection not just from the curious but from smuggling gangs and other exploiters of such a vulnerable group.

We reflected on the good and the bad in our visit.  There were some distressing sights of course;  the young men virtually housebound at the Catholic Worker either unable or unwilling to go out, whether for lack of mobility or of papers.  And the knowledge that 6000 people were facing yet another twist in their fate, out of their control.  And that there had been two attempted suicides amongst the young men known to the Catholic Worker.

The admirable French achievement in dispersing this huge number with as much dignity as possible cannot be underestimated however.    While there have been some protests in various regions at having to accept numbers of these Calais migrants, the achievement of finding so many centres is astonishing.  In answer to some regional criticism the French minister of housing, Emmanuelle Cosse replied,

‘You can’t have it both ways:  criticising the State for not managing the situation, and then being astonished that we are taking things in hand’.  The key to the success of the policy was, according to her, ‘We have shown the people that everything has been put in place to manage this exercise. And the charity world has cooperated with the effort’.

Meanwhile, our government has paid out already £80m to secure more fencing in Calais, with a wall currently under construction.  Moreover, Home Secretary Amber Rudd  has recently promised a further £36million for the cost of the clearance of the camp.  Some of this will presumably pay for all those coaches and policemen, some for identifying and receiving a small number of minors, and the rest on further security measures.

It is not hard to see which government has been more humanitarian.  Meanwhile, civil society on both sides of the Channel has acted with compassion, practicality and solidarity, with the migrants and with one another. Simon Jones told us that bizarrely,  immigration officials at Lunar House became more human, the lower down the hierarchy they were  We at Justice and Peace will continue to work in partnership with the charitable associations we have met, and to resist the notion that we can be fenced off from Europe by millions of pounds worth of fencing.

The refugee ‘crisis’ has not gone away.  The funding of war by our arms industry, providing drones, RPGs, tanks and fighter bombers is all the more tragic when we see these, usually male, refugees being pushed around so indiscriminately.  The war crisis in Syria, not to mention ongoing war in Sudan and the violently enforced conscription in Eritrea will drive more people to Europe, and probably towards the North French coast.   We must continue in partnership with Caritas France and other charities.

Lampedusa Cross Services

Praying for Refugees with the Lampedusa Cross through the year in the DioceseThe Cross, made by Francesco Tuccio, a carpenter from the island of Lampedusa, is available from either Justice and Peace or CAFOD Westminster.  It can be accompanied with display pictures as desired, and the CAFOD prayer service can be downloaded from the website here:   http://cafod.org.uk/Pray/Year-of-Mercy.  Already it has been hosted in Welwyn Garden City, the French Church at Leicester Square, St John Vianney West Green and St James Spanish Place, St Mellitus Tollington Park.

Lampedusa Services will be held at: 

Wednesday 19th October at 10.30am
St Matthew, 32 Hallowell Road, Northwood, Middlesex,HA6 1DW.

Saturday 22nd October at 11am
St Benedict, Ealing Abbey, 2 Marchwood Crescent, London, W5 2DY.

Saturday 26th November at 2pm
Church of the Transfiguration, Kensal Rise, 1 Wrentham Avenue, NW10 3HT.

The Lampedusa Cross will also be hosted at the following parishes:

7th – 9th October ·         St Thomas More Manor House,

11th – 14th November ·         St Alban and St Stephen, St Albans

Each parish will need to book the Cross, and arrange transport (which could be public transport).

Please contact Justice and Peace at justice@rcdow.org.uk or CAFOD at Westminster@cafod.org.uk  to book a slot.  This is an excellent way to keep refugees in our minds and hearts, as they struggle for survival in an often hostile world.

You may also visit a cross and pray at Westminster Cathedral, or with the original cross at the British Museum.