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Clare Moseley delivers a package of clothing to a refugee in Calais.

Clare Moseley delivers a package of clothing to a refugee in Calais.

News from the refugee frontline in Calais

The Jungle camp in Calais was broken up and its inhabitants dispersed in 2016, but not surprisingly that did not mean that the many refugees and asylum-seekers looking to enter the UK disappeared. Clare Moseley, co-founder of Care4Calais, is coming to Hastings to talk about the current situation, as Felicity Laurence of Hastings Supports Refugees explains.

In 2015 Clare Moseley was reading about the terrible suffering of the refugees coming into Europe; their perilous, often fatal, trips across the Mediterranean, and the ongoing hardship as they trudged across the continent trying to find a place of safety.

Some reached Calais, many of whom were children from nine to 18 years, alone without their parents, but with relatives in the UK and therefore very likely a legal right to rejoin their families. They thought they would be able to seek asylum in the UK, but the reality was and remains that they have been stopped at the UK border in Calais and prevented from coming any further.

Clare felt compelled to travel to Calais to try to help the refugees suffering such degrading conditions there in the so-called Jungle. She has never left. In her own words:

“I expected compassion, a swell of fellow feeling. But my heart sank as I read the comments. There was so much cruelty. These people whose suffering was so much greater than anything I had experienced were being dehumanised, talked about as though they were rats. It made me feel sick. I thought: ‘I don’t want to be like this. I want to show that there are people in Britain who care’”.

Clare, a former accountant from Merseyside, left her job in mid-2015 to co-found Care4Calais, one of the main groups still distributing aid in and near Calais, and she has been based in Calais ever since.

£1 million of aid

Care4Calais has, in the past two and a half years, “raised and distributed over £1 million worth of aid, thanks to the incredible generosity of the British public. Our most recent #Coats4Calais initiative last month saw thousands of refugees receiving warm winter coats donated by both the general public and celebrities”.

In October 2016, the Calais Jungle was destroyed; many hundreds of us in Hastings signed an open letter to Home Secretary Amber Rudd pleading for proper care for, at least, the thousands of unaccompanied minors in the camp and to allow all those with the legal right to be here immediate entry into the UK at that point.

This did not happen, and the scenes of the violent and chaotic razing of the camp still conjure horror that this can and did happen under the jurisdiction of the two ‘civilized’ Governments of France and the UK.

Clare writes further about what is happening there right now:

“When the Calais Jungle was demolished back in October 2016, many believed that somehow the 9,000 refugees who were living there would miraculously disappear. But 15 months later, the situation is worse than ever, with about 1,000 refugees currently sleeping rough in the woods, in ditches and under bridges in and around the Pas de Calais area, and 2,000 more in Brussels, Paris and Caen, with no safe or legal routes to enter the UK and claim asylum.

“At the time of the demolition, refugees were promised that their applications for asylum either in the UK or France would be processed if they agreed to be transferred to one of the Welcome Centres. Some of these centres were a significant improvement over jungle living conditions, and some refugees were granted asylum.

IMG_1902 300“But other centres were worse even than the Jungle, providing no legal or medical support whatsoever, and totally inadequate amounts of food or warmth; and often there was vicious opposition from local people. The system was simply not equipped to deal with the numbers, and consequently, many refugees left the centres, frightened and dispirited, and made their way back to ports like Calais.

“Amongst them were several hundred unaccompanied minors, who have a legal right to be in UK under the Dublin Regulation (which says that if you have close relatives in the UK, you can apply for asylum here) and the Dubs Amendment, which promised to allow 3,000 vulnerable refugees under the age of 18 into the UK, but which the government put a halt to earlier in 2017.

“To date just 750 minors have been transferred over more than two years, nearly all under the Dublin scheme. In the past two weeks, just two children have been allowed to come into the UK (from Greece, not from Calais) under the resumed Dubs scheme, despite nearly 300 homes being ready and waiting to take many more of this group with no families.

Conditions worse than ever

“With freezing temperatures and no reliable access to food, fresh water, sanitation or shelter, conditions are now worse than ever before, and desperate. Refugees are wrapping themselves in plastic at night to try and keep warm, because the French police have been confiscating and slashing their tents and sleeping bags, also using teargas. Scabies, fungal and gum infections are rampant.

“Recently, in the extreme cold, the French authorities opened some limited winter shelters in Calais, and housed refugee families in Dunkirk in a gymnasium which is dry and warm. However, they have turned the water off, while in Calais the shelter is open only on the worst nights, with room for only 200 people and confusing entrance requirements.

“I am continually dismayed by the UK’s failure to admit culpability for the situation in Calais.  Focusing on the way the French deal with it detracts from the fact that we have created this problem – by closing our border in France, by failing to provide safe and legal routes for those who are eligible for UK asylum, by spending more time or money trying to stop people claiming asylum than having care over why they may be trying to claim it in the first place.

“I feel we have lost sight of any of the ideals we might have held as a nation when the Geneva Convention was first signed and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Diary date

Hastings Supports Refugees is honoured to welcome Clare, who is coming directly to us from Calais to speak further about this situation and what might be done to help, in the Hastings Debates on Wednesday 24 January, 7.30 pm, at our new venue The Printworks, 14 Claremont, TN34 1HE.

Also appearing is Prof Sue Clayton of Goldsmiths University who will introduce her documentary film Calais Children: A Case to Answer, which she will screen in the March Hastings Debates.

Hastings Supports Refugees are collecting clothes and donations to send back to Calais with Clare  – please see our FB page or contact Hastings Community of Sanctuary at info@hastings.cityofsanctuary.org.

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This article was first published in Hastings Independent Press.

Posted 17:48 Wednesday, Jan 17, 2018 In: Campaigns

1 Comment


Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT
  1. DAR

    “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions”.

    Comment by DAR — Thursday, Jan 18, 2018 @ 12:27

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