Farron urges Theresa May to help Calais refugees

Tim Farron has written to Theresa May to ask her to help the refugees in Calais. He visited the port earlier this month and saw for himself the conditions people had to live in and also heard some of their stories. Here is his letter in full:

Dear Theresa,

I am writing to you about the humanitarian crisis in Calais ahead of your meeting with French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve later this week.

I welcome the measures the Government has already taken to improve the security situation at the Eurotunnel and reduce the disruption which has been caused for British businesses and holidaymakers, but am writing to ask that the UK do more to ensure that the humanitarian crisis in Calais is properly recognised and addressed.

Having visited the Jules Ferry migrant support centre in Calais and met with organisations working on the ground, it is clear that many of those living in “the jungle” are refugees fleeing war and persecution. The organisations who are currently working to support these very vulnerable people are under extreme pressure. The conditions in Calais fall far short of international standards on the treatment and welfare of refugees. Water and sanitation are all in short supply and medical support stretched beyond capacity. Many are being forced to subsist on the one meal a day that the centre is able to provide. More funding and better coordination are urgently needed, and the UK needs to do more. It is absolutely right that we work together with the French to fund improvements in security at the Eurotunnel and action on people trafficking, but the humanitarian support that is so desperately needed must also be adequately funded.

The terrifying conflicts that have forced so many people to flee their homes have also torn families apart, with mothers separated from sons and daughters, and husbands separated from their wives. This is a horrifying situation which none of us would ever want to find ourselves in. We have a responsibility, under the Dublin Regulation, to do more to help those whose family members are already in the UK. We must work much more closely with the French on this, as well as ensuring that the hundreds of refugees who are claiming asylum in Calais every week are processed as quickly as possible, and treated with the dignity they deserve. I call on you to ensure that these areas are fully addressed in any further agreement with the French this week, and that all further measures recognise and address the humanitarian crisis alongside security issues.

I also ask again that you reconsider your decision that the UK will not opt-in to the European Union Committee’s draft proposals on relocation of the most vulnerable migrants from Italy and Greece (COM(2015) 286 final). Over the last few weeks we have seen ever greater tragedies caused by the current migration crisis, with more lives lost in the Mediterranean, the chaos and inhumanity of treatment of desperate migrants reaching the Greek Islands.

It is now more important than ever that the UK is willing to work with our European partners in finding genuine solutions to this humanitarian crisis and offer protection to some of the most vulnerable refugees from the conflict-torn states of Iraq, Eritrea and Syria.

Kind regards,

Tim Farron MP,
Leader of the Liberal Democrats


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  • Richard Underhill 19th Aug '15 - 9:31pm

    The announcement that Slovakia will only take Christian refugees is disappointing. If they are suffereing persecution because of perceptions about religion they should be treated equally.

  • Richard Underhill

    Good for Slovakia,it’s their country they get to choose who comes in.

  • Richard Underhill 19th Aug '15 - 10:11pm

    kevin 19th Aug ’15 – 9:57pm No, it means that they are not fulfilling their international obligations under the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the status of refugees.
    Slovakia’s geographical position made it importasnt to the enlargement of the EU in 1994 when ten countries were in the process of joining at the same time. The process was delayed because one of the parties in the three party coalition government made Slovakia unacceptable as an EU member. After a general election and a change of government they were were admitted. At that time the UK was receiving a stream of asylum seekers alleging racism.

  • Richard Stallard 19th Aug '15 - 11:43pm

    Their country, their home, their society, their choice.

  • Richard Stallard 20th Aug '15 - 12:51am

    And (Sorry – I forgot to add) Denmark is also making moves to ensure that of the 500 refugees they are forced to accept, they only take those which will be of benefit to their country.
    So, who will be left with having to house the dross and followers of the religion of ‘peace’?

  • Those are appallingly, grossly illiberal sentiments. I suppose you’d defend 17th-century England’s persecution of Catholics because “their country, their choice”? Not to speak of obvious European parallels much closer to our own time.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 20th Aug '15 - 8:06am

    Kevin and Richard Stallard, I hope you never find yourselves in the position where you are forced to flee your home due to persecution or war. You might think differently then. Perhaps you might like to try to put yourselves in the shoes of these people before demeaning them.

    Describing these fellow human beings as “dross” is deeply hostile and unpleasant.

  • Richard Underhill 20th Aug '15 - 8:32am

    Describing these fellow human beings as “dross” is factually inaccurate.

  • Nigel Jones 20th Aug '15 - 9:53am

    I find the comments above saying that a country can discriminate as to who they take in on religious grounds to be totally wrong and against all the Lib-Dems stand for.
    To get back to Tim’s letter, I am glad he welcomes what the government has started to do, because it helps no one to allow a completely chaotic situation to occur. People entering illegally ( I assume that is what he meant by security )and therefore unknown both as they enter and as they continue to live here put themselves in further danger and is not a long-term solution. It shows how desperate they are and therefore Tim’s point about helping them while simultaneously stopping them entering illegally is correct. It requires an international solution where they are sorted out before they even get to places like Calais and of course, much more effort is needed to tackle the people smugglers; Tim failed to mention that.

  • It’s not just words that are needed. Look up the York Press details below on google to see what five social work post graduate students at York University are doing to help. Yes Mr Stallard, it’s their country, their home, their society, their choice.

    York students head to Calais to support migrants (From York …

  • Seems to be as problem with the link. Do a google search on Emma Bilson, York Press, Calais.

  • Richard Underhill 20th Aug '15 - 12:36pm

    Ian Sanderson (RM3) 11:54am & 12:04pm
    It has already been accepted that Malta cannot cope with all the applicants they receive. Most of what you say is what is in the 1951 UN convention, which is deliberately the same for most countries and all countries in the EU.
    ” … many of those at Calais could be classified as refugees but are hampered by the lack of legal paperwork.” This is not in line with the 1951 convention which specifically allows for the fact that a the alleged persecutors, often governments, prevent those fleeing from having, keeping or obtaining documents.
    Please also think about safe areas. Suppose has fled from an advancing army. Suppose also that there are parts of a country which are not controlled by that army. It may be possible to safely return the claimant to the country of his/her nationality, in which case a person who has crossed an international border and is unwilling to return may still be enabled to do so.

  • We do not discriminate on religious grounds, I know a religion that does yet is never criticised for its views on women, gays or other religions and that it is trying to change schools and law to its own agenda of the dark ages.

  • If the people in Calais were genuine refugees they would of course have already claimed asylum in the first safe country they arrived in.The fact that they haven’t can only lead to the conclusion that the are economic migrants.

    Is it any wonder that Slovakia & Denmark want to select who enters their country after witnessing the mob violence in Calais that has attacked truck drivers, closed the channel tunnel for weeks,ruined peoples holidays & bought the economy of Kent to it’s knees.

    It’s easy to smear someone as ‘illiberal for noticing the reality of the situation no matter how much spin you try and put on it.

  • I missed why they are fleeing France.

    Perhaps Mr Farron should complain to Bernard Cazeneuve about the conditions in France.

  • John Tilley 20th Aug '15 - 4:24pm

    Tim Hill
    Thank you for asking the question. I was thinking exactly that myself.

  • @ Tim Hill

    The migrants are not at Calais because they are fleeing from anywhere. They are there through choice. They are congregating at Calais because they seek the employment, housing, welfare and almost guaranteed possibility of remaining indefinitely in “soft touch” Britain.

    The conditions are poor at Calais partly because the migrants have overwhelmed the authorities there and partly because the French want to encourage them to move to the UK.

    It may be your wish to welcome every migrant from every part of the world but I’m sure you would also be the first to complain about the NHS being unable to cope, the shortage of housing, councils overspent and cutting services, not enough schools, etc.

    The UK population was declining before Blair opened our borders to everyone, now the population is rising at a rate that cannot be sustained.

  • Richard Stallard 20th Aug '15 - 4:56pm

    It’s time to wake up to reality – you can’t save everybody, so who are you going to save?

  • ‘Tim Hill’ If that’s your real name.

    I didn’t realize that it was obligatory to agree with everything that was published on this site.

    Clearly as your only response to my & other’s comments is to try and smear them as ‘unpleasant points’ rather than argue your case clearly indicates you have nothing other than vacuous comments to contribute ,to what I thought was supposedly an adult discussion

  • The problem needs to be addressed at the points of departure. If that is not practical it needs to be addressed at the points of entry to the EU. Shengen should be suspended. Non-asylum seekers should be returned immediately. The traffickers should be tracked down and put out of business, their boats destroyed.

    Then the EU will have to deal with the genuine cases. This will cost money and will involve providing asylum. There are enough member states to share what needs to be done. The UK has to contribute to that. Many EU countries have lots of land and low populations. The UK is over-crowded but relatively wealthy. There may be room for compromise. We should still accept some refugees.

    The problem is that the EU with all its heads of nation states and commissioners seems incapable of doing anything constructive or decisive. It is a disgrace that this problem has been building for years and the EU response is so useless.

  • The first safe country provision fails because the countries on Europe’s borders don’t have the capacity to handle the hundreds of thousands of people who arrive, nor really the ability to take in the tens of thousands who are given leave to remain. These countries pass people along the chain to northwestern countries, mainly Germany but also Sweden and the UK, because they do not have confidence in the willingness of said countries to make contributions out of solidarity, a problem compounded by the fact that the European Union lacks the budgetary powers with which to handle that itself.

    The solution is to construct a system that shares out refugees with leave to remain throughout the union, while at the same time providing the necessary European funding to allow the nearest safe countries to do the processing there. The do-nothing policy advocated by some of our more heartless contributors is, quite apart from the moral question, also unlikely to do anything other than allow the chaos to intensify around us. Are we really certain that we’ll always be isolated from it?

  • @ T-J
    Yes, you are right, but to do nothing is not acceptable. One would think that the EU with its population of 503 million would find a few professionals capable managing a large scale problem and not leave it to a few inexperienced policemen such as the ones on the island of Kos.

    The EU must have ample resources to deal with the migrants. It is leadership and decision making that is lacking.

  • The traffickers alert the EU which then sends ships to meet the boatloads of migrants in order to take them to the EU.
    This crazy policy means that the EU is doing the job of the traffickers, who still get their money. It acts as a huge magnet and makes the problem much worse.

    Letting those who try to break into the tunnel or stow on lorries or intimidate lorry drivers just fill up lots of Eurostar trains and let them come here courtesy of HMG is another variation of that daft policy. We would have hundreds of thousands waiting at Calais in no time.

    We need to find solutions, not exacerbate the problem.

  • Quite right, Peter. The intergovernmental model of European cooperation is failing here as it is with the eurozone’s debt crisis.

    The answer here is to build up the institutions we need to make it work, to share the cost of handling the borders so we can all continue to enjoy the ability to move freely within them, and then to share the task of hosting those migrants who ultimately do make a successful application. All member states need to be confident that they can contribute secure in the knowledge that they will in return recieve help with their problems. That kind of confidence needs leadership, and for such leaders as that to exist with legitimacy, a federal union applying subsidiarity in law and solidarity in policy is needed.

  • Why not take our fair share of genuine asylum seekers and give non EU economic migrants a work permit say for a year then if there is still lots of work they can renew it and stay a bit longer, but when their work permit time runs out and if there is no more work then they will have to go back home to their own country.

  • If you actually read the reasons given by the Slovakian Government I don’t think their argument is completely without merit. They are saying it will be harder for non-Christian immigrants to integrate into their society, which religiously is fairly homogeneous – they don’t even have a mosque, and that ultimately those immigrants would choose to leave Slovakia to move on to other countries such as France, Germany and the UK where they would feel more comfortable. This would mean that although Slovakia might agree to take a number of refugees, those people would be likely to leave, rendering the quota pointless and lead Slovakia to unwillingly renege on its commitments under EU and international law.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t agree that countries should be able to refuse humanitarian refugees based on their religious identity or other characteristics except criminality, but ignoring the challenges of integration is not going to help the situation. Efforts should be made to settle refugees in countries where they are most likely to stay, based not only on religious identity but also language ability, educational background, work experience and even sexual orientation (yes, there are countries in the EU where it is more difficult to be LGBT).

    In my opinion, the failure or complete lack of integration policies is one of the driving forces behind the rise in racist and xenophobic rhetoric.

  • Richard Stallard 21st Aug '15 - 9:58am

    @ Will,
    That would be nice in theory, but it unworkable in practice because it depends on, for example:
    a) The migrant workers going home when their work permit expires (which they are unlikely to do voluntarily – many would disappear into the black economy and have to be rooted out).
    b) The migrant workers having kids etc. and claiming under the HRA.

    The reality is that once they’re in, they’re pretty much here to stay.

    Of course, if you vetted them and only gave work permits to those with skills the country needs (with a guaranteed job to go to, sponsored by an individual employer who also acts a guarantor), without a criminal record, a clean bill of health and who pass security clearance, it might work. But then people would bleat that this was the same as the Australian points system which for some reason people don’t like!

  • Richard,
    The migrants would have to sign a work permit agreement they are then photographed and fingerprints taken issued with an ID if at the end of the work permit running out and if it is not renewed and they do a runner and disappear then no matter how long it takes when they eventually turn up they would be returned immediately to their own country. Part of the work permit scheme agreement is that they accept in advance that this agreement cannot be challenged under HRA if they have kids it does not apply they know the rules in the agreement and have signed it therefore they will have to accept that they will be returned in the instances I have explained.

  • Richard Underhill 21st Aug '15 - 12:01pm

    People’s opinion depend partly on their experiences, where they live and what work they do. Therefore very few people have an overalll view, including those at the top who can be remote from ordinary life.

  • Richard Stallard 21st Aug '15 - 12:34pm

    I understand what you’re saying, but the HRA will still (as usual) be the barrier to any common-sense solutions. I can’t, for example, see those who support the HRA agreeing to people ‘signing away’ their rights under it.

    The only way out of the mess is (obviously):
    a) Leave the eu.
    b) Get rid of the HRA in its present form.
    c) Impose the same immigration rules on everyone and stop the present racism and favouritism. The system of allowing people from (predominately white) eu countries to short-cut the system is scandalous.

  • Richard Stallard 21st Aug '15 - 4:58pm

    And the latest update –
    We are now going to have to pay for illegal aliens to be flown home from France.
    So – firstly we pay to send Royal Navy ships to bring them across to Europe and then we pay to fly them back home again.
    Words fail me.

  • Richard Underhill 21st Aug '15 - 7:09pm

    This conversation is getting too silly.

  • Katharine Pindar 22nd Aug '15 - 12:42pm

    Let us by all means have practical suggestions like Will’s, that migrants who cannot claim asylum should be offered a work permit for a year. I have suggested that perhaps some of them will be able to work in the construction industry, where I understand small companies have been unable to build more houses for lack of workers. But in any case we should be accepting more of the 200,000-odd who have fled to Europe this year. And the Calais situation would surely be improved by a fast, temporary registration of the migrants on the spot, before their asylum claims are assessed. The joint English-French action could include that, allowing them some hope. Meantime it is great that Tim Farron has been demanding more humanitarian treatment of the migrants in Calais, as well as security measures, etc. I hope that we can make Liberal Democrat voices heard nationally on these issues. taking advantage of the ‘silly season’ and the crisis in the Labour Party.

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