Tag Archives: calais

Both Houses Debate Calais Today

Ahead of the today’s debate in the House of Commons on “Calais and unaccompanied child refugees in Europe”, and in the House of Lords on “Government assessment of the condition of refugees and migrants still in Calais and the surrounding area” (led by Lib Dem peer, Lord Roberts of Llandudno) Lord Robert’s parliamentary researcher writes:

As anyone in the vicinity of Parliament Square last Tuesday will likely have gathered, given a well-attended protest in its recognition, October marks a year since the demolition of the Calais ‘jungle.’

Outside Ronnie Scott’s on Friday, where I was singing as part of the Citizens

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Dublin versus Dubs

 

Whilst the Home Secretary hails the arrival of 312 unaccompanied asylum seeking children as “a really good result”, the fact remains that domestic legislation allows for the UK to positively impact the lives of hundreds – even thousands – more children.

To explain, unaccompanied asylum seeking children can be brought to the UK under one of two systems. Firstly, the Family Reunification provisions of the Dublin III Regulations allow for asylum seekers who have family members who have already received international protection in another state to be transferred to join those family members and have their asylum claim determined by that country. This is rooted in EU asylum policy – meaning the Government has no choice but to comply with the legislation, and there is no limit to the number of children who can be brought to the UK.

On the other hand, the Dubs system of transfer allows for an unspecified number of unaccompanied children with or without family in the UK to be transferred into British care, providing that they arrived in Europe before 20th March 2016 and that it is deemed to be in the child’s “best interests” to be relocated. Thus, many children who may have been excluded from coming to the UK under the Dublin Regulations because they do not have family members in the UK, may now fall under the criteria of the Dubs amendment.

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Roger Roberts writes: we must do more for the Calais children

The crisis that we are faced with in the UK and Europe is only part of a worldwide migration crisis. We hear from the United Nations that there are 65 million displaced persons in the world, and we know that in Europe alone, as already mentioned, there are 88,000 unaccompanied children. In the years to come, our legacy will not be a good one for our children, because with global warming, economic disasters and conflict, the flow of refugees could well become a torrent. So we have to face years ahead when we will need to tackle problems such as …

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Gary Lineker – a welcome voice of humanity


Gary Lineker has taken a bit of stick this week for comments (such as the one above) on Twitter. The Sun went to town on him and there were calls for him to be sacked from the BBC.

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Nice start but what next for Calais?

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News that the trickle of children admitted from the Calais jungle has started to become more of a steady flow is, of course, welcome.

But there are still hundreds there and no real sign that there will be a convey of coaches to bring them to the UK, where they can be reunited with their families, as they are entitled.

I wrote before on LDV, and spoke at Conference, about these children being caught in a web of bureaucracy. The Home Office does now, it appears, take this more seriously but the danger that the demolition of the camp might take place before they make their way across the Channel remains all too real.

Demolition was supposed to happen on Monday 17 October. The fact that it has been deferred is good news but there is still a real chance that it might happen as early as next week. Experience tells us that should that happen many children will simply disappear – and thus be even more at the mercy of people traffickers.

Tim Farron speaks for all Liberals when he says:

It is outrageous to hear the Home Secretary now claiming to be acting urgently to ensure the safety of these children.

Where was this urgency for the last year that they have been stuck in Calais, and why does it only extend to a small number of the hundreds of these unaccompanied kids?

He also speaks for some Conservatives too.

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Lib Dems donate aid and volunteer in Calais

Drop stitches not bombsDespite not being as high on the news agenda the refugee crisis is still ongoing, with thousands of people seeking safety arriving on Europe’s shores every week.

The Lib Dems have been proud to stand up for refugees and campaign for the UK to offer help and safety. Tim Farron was the first party leader to visit Calais, Lesvos and Idomeni. He has led the campaign for the UK to take in 3000 unaccompanied refugee children from Europe. Our peers in the House of Lords have worked tirelessly to pressure the government to take in more refugees. On the ground Lib Dem volunteers have raised vanloads of essential items donations to be sent to aid refugees in the camps across Europe.

There are serious concerns that Brexit and rising anti-migrant rhetoric could be a backwards step in our campaigns to take in more refugees. The political developments following the leave vote could also take attention away from the ongoing plights of refugees. However we as Lib Dems refuse to let brexit mean that we forget our moral obligations to help refugees. 

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How to help refugees in Calais

 

Some may think that this may not be the best of moments to draw attention to the refugees on our doorstep, at a time when we are fighting for Britain to remain in the EU – but I disagree.

It is inevitable that the press will now focus almost exclusively on the in/out debate, but that focus is increasingly being targeted at migrants – the leave campaign having conceded the economic argument, for the moment.

The issue of migrants from the EU is being wilfully conflated with the issue of refugees fleeing war-torn Syria and surrounding regions. But there is no correlation or causation link between the two; whether Britain stays or leaves the EU will have no impact on numbers arriving in Europe.

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Shas Sheehan talks to the heroes of Calais and Dunkirk

Baroness Shas Sheehan went to Calais and Dunkirk with some supplies a few weeks ago. She is going again this week and invites you to help her get supplies together.

On her last visit, she spoke to some of those heroic volunteers who have given up months of their time to help the refugees survive the Winter. Here’s the video she made.

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Baroness Shas Sheehan writes…Moral leadership needed on refugee crisis

This refugee crisis is the biggest movement of people since WWII. It needs visionary people with big thinking to get to grips with it, because make no bones about it, it will need to be tackled and a head in the sand attitude will not make it go away. So, it is a  proud day when the leader of our party, Tim Farron, makes it a centrepiece of his keynote speech at conference and receives a standing ovation for it.

Politics is the art of the possible – but only when we have the leaders to make the possible happen.

The only western leader with the cojones to step up to the plate has been Angela Merkel. But she has been let down by other European leaders – not least our own Prime Minister, hiding behind the skirts of dysfunctional Dublin III regulations.

A little prodding behind Murdoch press headlines shows that last weekend’s elections in Germany, in spite of a spike in the far right vote, were far from a disaster for the pro-refugee German leader.

Britain and France make much of the “pull factors” – that making conditions just that little bit more humane will be a magnet. What utter rubbish. As though people flee their lovely homes, their lives, their careers, with only what they can carry – just to get the next phone upgrade. 

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We should be ashamed of UK inaction on refugee crisis

David Trett refugees

On a bleak windswept desolate morning in mid February, I walked through puddles of mud whilst alongside me a community of refugees, desperate to re-start their lives, remain near the French /UK border hoping to escape the situation and get to the UK, or some other place of sanctuary. I visited along with my Lib Dem colleague Councillor David Chalmers. I’m left wondering what will become to all those that I met this weekend.

I believe in showing humanity, care and love for our fellow citizens wherever they come from in the world, especially those escaping from lives of persecution, violence and discrimination. We, as a country, should be utterly ashamed of ourselves, as should the French authorities, for allowing a situation to develop only 20-25 minutes by travel from our shore, where a group of harmless, fear stricken people are left looking for sanctuary.

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Political disconnect in Calais and Dunkirk

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 10.30.54It is not surprising that media reports focus on the appalling conditions in the Calais and Dunkirk camps. On a recent trip Lord Roberts’ team saw for themselves how men, women and children live in knee-high mud, and brave the winter weather with little more than flimsy tents to keep the wind and rain at bay. In response to accusations that the British government are neglecting their humanitarian responsibilities, the Prime Minister champions the fact that under the Dublin Regulations, the UK has to allow family members of British people to claim asylum in the UK.

Despite the Dublin Regulations, the reality is that virtually no one can access this legal route. Many asylum seekers do not fully understand the unnecessarily complex system, and are unaware of exactly what their rights are; there are even reports of British passport holders unable to enter the UK from the camps. Despite government claims that British officials are present in the camp, these visits are occasional at best and offer no means of beginning an asylum claim. So although many asylum seekers in Calais and Dunkirk (as well as across Europe) have a legitimate legal right to claim asylum in the UK, it is incredibly difficult to access in practice. 

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Silenced Voices: The Desperate Situation in Calais and Dunkirk

Dunkirk refugee campAs a child in school, I remember learning about human failings throughout history and wondering repeatedly: how did so many people effectively neglect the problems they faced? So many years later, I still have the same question swirling around in the recesses in my mind. Last week simply brought this to the forefront of all I think about, thanks to the rude awakening that was our office’s fact-finding mission in Calais and Dunkirk. These failings of humanity to pay attention to and help fellow human beings in a humanitarian crisis are still prevalent today. What’s worse? This problem is right in our backyard. With this horrific realisation, I am left wondering once more: how do we fix it?

When we took up our posts, Lord Roberts asked us to try and address the refugee crisis which Europe was just beginning to recognise. None of us could have possibly understood the immensity of the problem when we first began research. It seemed like something in another place, another time, so distant and far removed from us that its tangibility faded to nothingness. Then, we began speaking to those people who had been working tirelessly on the ground to try and stem the seriousness before it escalated out of control. Meetings between our office and NGOs helped to uncover greater barriers to solutions than any of us could have ever imagined.

A few months later, after countless briefings, questions, and attempts to put greater pressure on Her Majesty’s Government to act, it became apparent that our office needed to explore the situation on the ground for ourselves. We arranged travel to Calais and Dunkirk with a grassroots organisation and an international non-governmental organisation, both of whom took us around the camps and provided insights from their differing perspectives.

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A visit to Calais

Jane Dodds Calais

Last week I left Welshpool with my car rather more heavily loaded than usual- with sleeping bags and tarpaulins, all donated by caring Montgomeryshire people wanting to help refugees living in the cold of a Calais winter.

I’ve reported in full on my visit to the Calais refugee camp last week in several posts and videos on my facebook site. Please click the link to have a look.

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Baroness Shas Sheehan writes…The refugee crisis on our doorstep

In a situation that goes from bad to worse, with no end point in sight, there has been one ray of hope.

On 18 January, the Upper Tribunal ruled that three  unaccompanied minors and a vulnerable young man with mental health problems, from the camp in Calais, had a bona fide case to be allowed to join relatives already resident in the UK.

Thanks to a legal challenge coordinated by Citizens UK, the Home Office has been told to immediately allow the three children and one adult to join their families.

Hitherto, the Government had been arguing that, under the Dublin III convention, applications for asylum must be made and processed in France. However, the reality is that the French system is broken, and applications from asylum seekers with family already resident in the UK are not being processed and passed on to the UK. In effect, the safe and legal route has been denied to asylum seekers who have done all that has been asked of them.

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Tom Brake writes: My trip to the Calais Jungle

 

I visited the Calais Jungle a week ago, where around 4,000 people live in terribly squalid conditions. My trip was organised by staff from Lib Dem HQ, who had collected donations so we were able to distribute water, food and sanitary products.

It was a shocking experience to see the dreadful conditions people are living in. The Jungle is worse than a shanty town, with very few facilities.

There was no sign of water being provided and the people we met clutched gratefully the bottles we had transported.  Shoes, clothes and dry foods were also in demand. Portable toilets are provided by aid organisations while the local authorities seem to turn a blind eye to the conditions in the camp, simply wishing it would go away. I was told the French authorities don’t provide any help apart from a Centre where mobile phones can be charged and a hot meal is available. If someone is badly injured the local hospital bandages them up.

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VIDEO: The three minutes of Tim’s speech where he speaks with raw rage about refugees

People have been requesting this clip. Click below for the three minutes of Tim’s conference speech when he spoke about refugees. The video starts when the passage starts. The passage ends at 31’32 with a standing ovation and then the video continues with the rest of the speech if you want to see it.



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Roger Roberts calls for Parliamentary debate on refugee crisis

So, the Westminster Parliament resumes on Monday after its Summer recess. The Commons debates the EU Referendum Bill, the Lords the Energy Bill. With a growing humanitarian crisis on our doorstep, though, can it really be business as usual?

Liberal Democrat peer and passionate advocate for the fair treatment of those who seek sanctuary Roger Roberts thinks not. He wants the current agenda to be postponed in favour of debates in both Houses on the crisis. He said on Facebook:

Next Monday Parliament reconvenes. I plan to have discussions today to treat Monday as if it was for the recall of Parliament to have an emergency debate on the Refugee crisis. With many thousands of people involved in what appears to be one of the major humanitarian crises of our time.I would welcome as much support (facebook – messages to M.P.s and Peers etc) as possible.

I think it would be good to have Parliaments in Scotland and Wales debate the issue too, especially if they are able to say that they are happy to take refugees in their areas.

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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.

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Calais: a sharp contrast in approach

Philip Hammond, the British Foreign Secretary, has made some comments about the Calais situation, reported in the Telegraph:

Millions of African migrants pose a threat to the standard of living and social structure of the UK and the rest of Europe, the Foreign Secretary has warned.

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Tim Farron on Calais refugees: “These are bright, educated people that just want to create a life for themselves.”

While David Cameron uses demeaning language comparing them to insects, Tim Farron takes himself off to Calais to actually meet some of the refugees there. He spoke to Buzzfeed’s Emily Ashton about his experiences. Here are some of the highlights:

An invitation to David Cameron

He should go ,” said Farron of the prime minister. “I will take him. He should talk to people there and look at the reality of the situation and he should deal with the reality rather than dealing with the myth.

The idea that they are all money grabbing people seeking to claim UK benefits is rubbish

The significant majority in the camp are, according to the French authorities and doctors, absolutely what any reasonable person would consider a refugee fleeing from war or persecution,” he said.

So this idea they are all money-grabbing people is just rubbish. I got talking to a bunch of guys from Eritrea, from Sudan, from Libya, and these are guys who wanted to come to England. Not one of them had a clue about benefits. They wanted to come to the UK because the UK represents the good life. Not that it’s a bed of roses or it’s cushy; I mean a life where people aren’t shooting at you, where you can be free to worship where you want to worship.

“We don’t get fewer losers by pitting one group against others”

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#WeAreAllHuman: Liberal Youth members show solidarity with Calais refugees

“We will not dehumanise, we will not demonise, we will support them.”

Liberal Youth members have made a video in solidarity with the refugees in Calais. Joanne Ferguson, who joined the Party in May and has written for this site several times, tells David Cameron: “You have the power to save human lives, use it.”

Watch and share.

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Let’s appeal to lovers of a big- hearted Britain and win the immigration argument.
 


I felt compelled to put into words my thoughts on the situation in Calais following David Cameron’s intervention, describing those seeking refuge in the United Kingdom, as ‘swarming’ over the border.

To invoke the language of the BNP, UKIP, the National Front, and the English Defence League is irresponsible and inflammatory. Similar language was used by the Daily Mail in the 1930s when describing Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution.

My family are refugees; my grandparents and their three young daughters were forced to flee their homes following the invasion of Cyprus in 1974. This issue is therefore very close to my heart. The UK gave refuge to my family in the 1970s, and for this they will be eternally grateful. They became part of London’s mosaic society. As with many other immigrants at the time, they were welcomed by both the government and society. Immigrants were seen as beneficial to the country, they brought with them skills, and a willingness to work long hard hours to better their lives. They saw the UK as a safe haven, and respected the native population. At the time the British people, by and large welcomed them, and accepted that immigrants were good for both society and the economy.

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Tim Farron goes to Calais to see the humanitarian crisis for himself

For Tim Farron, the situation in Calais has always been primarily a humanitarian one. He was furious last week when David Cameron described the desperately vulnerable people there as a “swarm.” Most recently he asked Cameron to make sure that we were doing our fair share to end the “immeasurable suffering” of the people in Calais. He wrote:

I am sure you agree that it is heartbreaking to see hundreds of desperate people subsisting in makeshift camps night after night, willing to risk life and limb in the hope of a better future while many in Kent and across the country see their daily lives hugely disrupted through no fault of their own.

I welcome your commitment yesterday to providing France with the resources needed to deal with the situation and am writing to seek assurances that alongside the necessary security measures, support will also be given to humanely process those seeking asylum, return those who have no right to remain, and ensure that, in line with international obligations, standards of welfare and accommodation are urgently improved.

Today he went to Calais to see the situation on the ground for himself.

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Farron calls on Cameron to act to end “immeasurable suffering” of migrants

Tim Farron has written to David Cameron to urge him to ensure that the UK takes its fair share of those poor, desperate, vulnerable people we’ve all seen on our tv screens. He wrote:

I am writing to you about the current humanitarian crisis in Calais and its impact here in the UK.

I am sure you agree that it is heartbreaking to see hundreds of desperate people subsisting in makeshift camps night after night, willing to risk life and limb in the hope of a better future while many in Kent and across the country see their daily lives hugely disrupted through no fault of their own.

I welcome your commitment yesterday to providing France with the resources needed to deal with the situation and am writing to seek assurances that alongside the necessary security measures, support will also be given to humanely process those seeking asylum, return those who have no right to remain, and ensure that, in line with international obligations, standards of welfare and accommodation are urgently improved.

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Solution to Calais crisis lies in international development

All the unpleasantness of the last few days’ reaction to the ongoing Calais crisis is perhaps just a taste of the difficult challenge it will be for Liberals to uphold decency in the coming years. In my view, the best way to form a powerfully Liberal stance on this issue is to reinforce to the public that the solution to this crisis, as well as others (Islamic extremism, the environment etc.) lies in a field of policy often neglected by mainstream debate: International Development. But for us to form that policy, we must face some difficult home truths.

Every ideology has an extremist form. Every tool that can construct a better world can be used as a weapon to make a darker, crueller one. In the field of international development, it is time for Liberals like ourselves to recognise that we are not exempt from this fact. It is time for our party to develop a stance on development that differentiates us from the major parties and their blind stance to the free market fundamentalism of the current key institutions, the IMF, World Bank and World Trade Organisation, so that Britain can play its part in reforming them when we return to government.

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Opinion: Refugees are people too

I recently watched a television programme in which Ross Kemp looks at the situation in Calais, where thousands of refugees are seeking to gain access to the UK in the most dangerous manner.

I have no special knowledge of the situation there, nor from what they are fleeing – who can? But I do know that seeing the programme has made me deeply ashamed of being European. Not being a citizen of the European Union, but being a member of a large community that has not yet addressed the issue of how we can help people in such dire straits.

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