A friend I bumped into while working out in the gym this morning enquired if I am still involved in immigration and associated issues. My response was yes but not as much as I might, given that my particular focus these days is on helping the homeless. I am grateful though there are those with a finger on the pulse, chipping away at the coal face, led by two outstanding lady ministers in Southend and a just out of town Catholic priest (who I will come to). Even so, I maintain a keen interest in what is happening by keeping up to date with some of the developments (and in this post I will focus on the “Jungle” migrant camp in Calais, even though the humanitarian refugee crisis shows little sign of abating), supporting where I can.
But it is two very recent developments that have motivated me to write once again on this subject that shows little sign of going away soon, following a number of earlier blogs. I happened to come across a “Jungle helper’s misplaced care” letter in yesterday’s Southend Echo, written in “a disgusted of Tunbridge Wells vein”, pouring scorn or at least partronising disdain for the “do gooders”, led by the afore-mentioned Catholic priest who as far as the writer is concerned should concentrate their efforts on helping out with the official Syrian refugee camps. The letter appeared to me to contain a mixture of popular prejudice and half baked truths, arguing the case that people living in the Jungle were there illegally and causing considerable damage, and they would be better placed asking the French for asylum, who would look after them and act in a just way.
My own view on such an argument is that both the French and British governments have to date acted, in the main, disgracefully in the whole affair and while there may have been a good deal of misplaced do-gooding, much of what has taken place has been in response to the desperation and destitution that has been observed, trying and partly succeeding in addressing unmet needs, concerning which the respective governments have appeared to wash their hands, even though in fairness they have provided measured help in other ways. Here and here are two of the latest articles stating the case for providing help, although worryingly these both relate to high profile figures lending their support for something being done, with the fickle media giving far more wight to this than grass roots activism, for this is something that should concern us all, who should be raising concerns in the appropriate way and supporting where we can. I am sure when it comes to providing the latest facts and figures my two lady minister friends would be able to provide.
This brings me to another issue, which shockingly applies to the Jungle camps, which are by dictate of the relevant authorities being demolished without anything to replace it or addressing the issues, and among that number are a number of unaccompanied minors. While my analysis of the situation is far from complete and I am skeptical that the government is going to act in the way I feel they ought, I have joined the good, the great and not so great, signing a letter to be sent to our Prime Minister, urging urgent action.
“1) To create an expedited process for the implementation of Dublin III’s family reunion provisions so that all minors who are currently residing in the camps in Calais and Dunkirk with family connections in the UK are able to reunite with their loved ones with immediate effect.
2) To ensure that those minors who have no legal right to come to the UK are protected and supported within France and that the French child protection process is also expedited to afford them the protection they are entitled to.
3) To persuade the French authorities that the decision to destroy further parts of the camp in Calais is postponed until all the minors currently residing there are either given child protection within the French system or enabled to reunite with their loved ones in Britain.”
I grant the situation is complex and the long term solution is far from straight forward, but just as in the case of the homeless upsetting the authorities by being where they shouldn’t, that does not let any one of us off the hook from responding with compassion toward those acting in a manner that embarreses the authorities. The challenge is huge and it is also disturbing!