Campaigners call for UK to give welcome to Calais refugees

Nora from Saint Gabriel’s speaking at South London Citizen’s assembly.

South London citizens are joining forces to shelter refugees left behind after the demolition of the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp.

Two hundred and fifty members of Citizen UK gathered to address the issue for the charity’s South London assembly last Wednesday. The diverse mix of participants discussed the need to welcome refugees’ families and find practical solutions that would provide safety for Calais’ children.

Jonathan Clark, Bishop of Croydon and a spokesman for refugee charity Safe Passage UK said the children were “the most vulnerable, who are at last being transferred to Britain.”

In October, a first group of children from the Calais ‘jungle’ arrived at the Home Office’s Lunar House in Croydon. A large crowd of people from Croydon Citizens, a local group of Citizens UK, greeted the refugee children with “welcome” banners.

The dismantling of the Calais camp by French authorities has left thousands of refugees without homes. Approximately 2,000 minors are now scattered across France in reception centres as Home Office officials examine their cases.

The UK Government has so far received an estimated 320 children in accordance with new Home Office guidelines – updated after the ‘Dubs Amendment‘ forced the government to accept some unaccompanied child refugees.

Bird's eye of the Calais Jungle in July 2016. Pic: Malachy Browne, Wikimedia Commons

Birds eye of the Calais Jungle in July 2016. Pic: Malachy Browne, Wikimedia Commons

The guidelines state that only children aged below 12; those deemed at high risk of sexual exploitation or those who “are aged 15 or under and are of Sudanese or Syrian nationality” must be resettled. Teenagers from Afghanistan, Yemen and Eritrea who do not have family in the UK are barred from entering the country.

Citizens UK staged a demonstration outside the 20-storey Lunar House in Croydon last month to put pressure on the government to start the transfers immediately.

“I am glad the Government allowed entrance for a few children,” said Suzan, a member of South London Citizens and Lewisham Mosque-goer, “But maybe the number should be bigger than that, as in all other European countries.”

Rabbi Janet Darley, a prominent figure in Citizen UK said, “We sheltered about 300 children from Calais in just over a couple of weeks, whilst before it took us six months to receive the first 60. But now things have stalled again. We need quick action from the Government to restart transferring more children.”


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