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.

Now, I did specifically make the trip to try to understand the extent of the crisis, especially for the plight of LGBT+ people, but fear of their own situation prevents anyone from being open about their sexuality or gender identity. There are no reliable figures as to the number of people we could be talking about, but as I walked through the camp you could tell by the facial expressions that there was a connection, even if nothing was said.

I was struck by the number of refugees who said to me, “We want to come to the UK because we have a family connection or “Our countries have a common history and we have been told that your country is a beacon of hope, love and support around the world.” I was deeply saddened to hear just how we are not living up to our worldwide reputation of compassion that those refugees had heard of.

During all my conversations not once was benefits mentioned. It is a media smokescreen to drive fear and prejudice in our population. We see the same sort of thing coming from those who support leaving the European Union, stating that our country is full.

The French authorities were threatening to evict these refugees this week, but fortunately, this immediate threat has for now been stopped in the Courts. By coincidence, a group of celebrities, led by Jude Law, happened to be visiting the camp this weekend, to lend their support to the plight of the refugees, especially the hundreds of unaccompanied children living in the “Jungle”. Should the eviction take place at some point in the next few months, it will leave them in a disastrous position as the facilities which they have made their community will be destroyed by bulldozers.

This visit has completely opened my eyes to the humanitarian crisis which is happening on our doorstep and how it is down to our Leader Tim Farron to continue to challenge the UK’s Government’s stance.

I would call upon those people who vote to remain IN and those voters that hopefully share our values of compassion and love to support and where possible to get involved with NGO’s like Care4Calais, Help Refugee UK, Citizens UK and many others to amplify this situation to the wider media and beyond.

I hope that our visit has enabled people to hear about the true situation on the ground in the “Jungle”.

* Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett is Secretary of the Federal International Relations Committee (FIRC) and Vice Chair Of Communications for LDEG ( Liberal Democrat European Group)

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  • Once more, if they want sanctuary, they can claim asylum in France, an EU Member State.

    And/or use the new accommodation being provided in Calais.

    If they do not, we have every right to ask why we should accommodate “asylum shopping”.

  • Spot on David.

  • Tsar Nicholas 23rd Feb '16 - 2:09pm

    I think we should be more ashamed that our foreign policy has caused this humanitarian catastrophe – it started with Iraq, which we opposed, but nobody in the Lib Dems spoke out against the atatck on Libya in 2011.

  • @David
    The mayor of Bruges was on the BBC news last night. One of these camps has sprung up a few miles from there. He described them unequivocally as economic migrants, not refugees, because “we’ve offered them asylum and they’ve turned it down”.

    I think articles like this one are completely pointless unless the author actually specifies what we should do to put a halt to this “inaction” and stop our “shame”. But as usual, there is absolutely nothing about what he thinks we should be doing.

  • @Richard – “did you miss the part where these people had connections to the UK?” and has it not occurred to you that these people might be lying or being economical with the truth?

    You may be surprised that ‘family’ to some people isn’t parents and siblings but a much wider interpretation, meaning that the ‘family’ members in the UK most probably have very little awareness or desire to meet up with, their long lost ‘relative’.

    Yes this might seem a little cynical, but then you only need to look at the recent national lottery win where the winners didn’t come forward straightaway and dozens did come forward with fraudulant claims to get some idea of how far some people are prepared to go to deceive others to achieve their own ends…

  • @ Richard Flowers

    “Took in as children and then kicked out when they got to 18”

    If they were here as asylum seekers and it was considered safe for them to go home, then why shouldn’t they go home. They were presumably admitted as children for their protection, at 18 as adults they should go back home and work to improve their country. Asylum is meant to provide a temporary safe refuge, not a right to settle. That attitude is at the core of the problem, and the principle reason we are in the current mess across the EU, as ,millions think if they can get here they won’t be sent back.

  • Raddiy. Quite. This is why people look at Tim’s pleas to take in 3000 unaccompanied children with suspicion: no-one could object to such a reasonable proposition; except everyone knows that the chances of those 3000, well-educated 18-year olds wanting to return to rebuild and inspire their own countries is small to vanishing. And for some reason, we won’t encourage them but rather fight hard for their ‘right’ to remain here.

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