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Sue Clayton’s award winning investigative film

Calais Children: A Case To Answer

At the January Hastings Debates, Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais, spoke about the current desperate situation on the ground for refugees in Calais. Professor Sue Clayton (Goldsmiths University) concluded the talk with an introduction to her award winning investigative film Calais Children: A Case To Answer. Next week, on March 28th, Professor Clayton returns to Hastings for a full screening of the film, with Q and A following. Felicity Laurence from Hastings Supports Refugees writes.

A few weeks ago, at the end of February, this film was submitted as ‘cornerstone’ evidence to a High Court Judicial Review challenging the Home Office’s failure of legal duty to the young unaccompanied minors when the Calais ‘Jungle’ was demolished in October 2016. This judicial review, whose result is due in two months, is the culmination of a series of legal challenges to the Home Office concerning their actions (and lack of action) during and after that event in Calais. It focusses upon the case (the eponymous ‘case to answer’) of one boy from Afghanistan who was denied entry into the UK at that time. His legal challenge, if successful, could have implications for the several thousand other unaccompanied children and young people who could have been brought here to safety within the framework of the Government’s own undertakings at that time.

Sue Clayton with teenage refugees

Sue Clayton with teenage refugees

This represents a tiny fraction of the thousands upon thousands of stranded children scattered across Europe – a figure of 90,000 has been mooted. We could have given sanctuary to some of them at least – instead of leaving them to endure their current unimaginable conditions in Calais, Greece and elsewhere across Europe. See The Guardaian’s article, Teenage refugees: High court challenge could give hope to thousands  for the report on the case as it began. This article from Duncan Lewis Immigration Solicitors – Our fight for the abandoned children – gives a detailed and riveting account of the motivation and progress of this case, providing a powerful background account to accompany Sue Clayton’s film.

Local support for the campaign for young refugees

We in Hastings Support Refugees (HSR) had been sending large amounts of aid to refugees in Calais and further afield in Europe, and some of us had visited and seen at first hand the appalling suffering of the people in the ‘Jungle’. Knowing that it was to be destroyed, we wrote an open letter signed by many prominent local people and the hundreds-strong membership of HSR, imploring our MP and Home Secretary, Amber Rudd to ensure the safety and immediate processing of the 2000 unaccompanied children there identified by Sue Clayton and others. But this did not happen, and instead, these children were utterly let down by both the British and the French Governments.

Legal right to come to UK

Many, if not most, of the children had a legal right to come to the UK according to the Government’s own commitments, either because they had family here, or, regarding unaccompanied children with no family in the UK, in the shape of the ‘Dubs’ scheme.

Lord Alf Dubs Photo Safe Passage, Ald Dubs Fund website

Lord Alf Dubs Photo Safe Passage, Ald Dubs Fund website

This scheme had already gained agreement from the government that 3000 unaccompanied children would be given entry to the UK, and was named after its initiator, Lord Alfred Dubs, who himself came to the UK as an unaccompanied child refugee in the Kindertransport of 1938-39, when 10,000 Jewish children from across Europe were brought here, saved from the Nazis in a nine-month rescue effort just before the beginning of the Second world war. Under the Dubs scheme, hundreds of the Calais children should lawfully have been given safe passage to the UK. Instead, the Home Office left taking any action until the absolute last minute and then failed entirely to ensure the most basic human rights of these children. Legal opinion from a top QC agreed that this amounted to criminal negligence.

But while we and the world watched aghast the ensuing chaos and violence of the Jungle’s destruction, Sue Clayton was there, in the middle of it all, filming it moment by moment, and Crowdfunding through the night from the 400 donors who shared her commitment to capturing as much as possible of what was actually taking place. The film records not only the events of those days, but crucially follows up on what happened to some of the hundreds of abandoned children and young people over the following year, what they’ve had to go through, and the ongoing fight to get them to safety.

Failure of Dubs Scheme

The Dubs scheme still seems to offer little help for these children; indeed, just four months after the demolition of camp, the scheme was effectively closed, with the promised 3000 massively reduced by over 80%, and the extraordinary pronouncement that the few hundred now to be admitted met the ‘spirit’ of the original amendment initiated by Lord Dubs. There are homes ready and waiting across the UK for the remaining few hundred children now permitted to come, but still things are moving at a snail’s pace. Sue’s recently commented on this lack of progress: ‘Of the 480 Dubs places that the Home Office has available for this scheme, they still have only filled 220 – and given the Act says “with all speed” and “as soon as possible”, this is shameful.’

As we learn from the film, many unaccompanied children are now languishing back in, or near, Calais, in recent weeks in dangerously cold temperatures, and constantly at high risk of trafficking and exploitation. It is shocking beyond words that some have indeed disappeared without trace. In telling their stories, the film aims to be – in Sue’s own words – ‘the perfect balance between an empathetic account of them and their lives, and a razor-sharp indictment of the government’s position’.

Sue Clayton

Sue Clayton

As we watch the razing of the camp and the treatment of the people there, as recorded so vividly in Sue’s film, we can see frightening shadows of the forces which prevailed in that earlier scourge. The first group in the Kindertransport consisted mainly of children from an orphanage in Berlin, which the Nazis had burned down shortly beforehand – an eerie and tragic resonance with what happened nearly 80 years later in Calais, where unwanted children again watched as everything in the ‘Jungle’ was burned and destroyed by those in authority and power.

Sue continues to fundraise for the young people in the film, providing ongoing help, and supporting a safe day-time refuge in Calais for young people. The film is being shown across the UK and Europe, with over 100 bookings so far, and will shortly be screened in Parliament, hosted by Lord Alf Dubs.

Hastings Supports Refugees and Hastings Community of Sanctuary invite everyone to come and watch for themselves this award-winning and uniquely important film. Both legally and historically, it has become a key document of our times.

Calais Children: A Case To Answer. Film by Sue Clayton, with Q and A. Wednesday 28 March, 7.30pm – 9pm. At Hastings Debates, The Printworks, 14 Claremont, TN34 1HE, Hastings. Entry free. Donations invited. ALL WELCOME. For more information, see City of Sanctuary  and Calais Children: A Case To Answer

If you’d like to donate to Sue Clayton’s ongoing humanitarian work, please go this website: Calais Gebnet.

Find out more here about Care4Calais.

Find out more here about Safe Passage: Alf Dubs’ Fund

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Posted 05:59 Friday, Mar 23, 2018 In: Politics

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