Protest at 10 Downing Street. Photo: Stand Up To Racism
Shameful betrayal of the kids by the UK government! Only 350 unaccompanied children have been let in the UK of the 3000 that should have been taken in under the Dubs amendment to the Immigration Bill. Theresa May’s government officially closed procedures, claiming a lack of spaces available to local councils. The consultation that produced that number is nine months out of date and numerous councils have offered placements for the children. We must call on government to re-consult those councils. https://www.theguardian.com/social-care-network/2017/feb/13/home-office-lying-capacity-care-child-refugees
Two protests in front of Downing Street have taken place already, one on Friday evening called by Stand Up to Racism, one on Saturday lunch time called by Citizens UK – Lord Dubs handed in a petition, a number of online petitions are circulating. Please sign, and write to your MP. Keep up the pressure! #dubsnow #refugeeswelcome
Go to the next protest and bring friends!
There has been heavy snowfall in Calais with temperatures dropping to -5 degrees. Many minors are sleeping out in this cold, 150 minors sleeping rough have been registered by volunteers but of course there are more, and many adults, of which most are very young. Nobody knows exactly how many are sleeping out and it is impossible to count them, but they are hundreds. Most are Eritreans; Ethiopians, Sudanese and Afghans are also very numerous. The former jungle has been razed to the ground and access to the area forbidden (for ‘security reasons’). People hide in the bushes or in abandoned buildings – no one sleeps in visible places like by the roundabout any more, for fear of police and racist attacks. Some minors have found accommodation in local people’s homes, as well as some women with young children, or are sheltered by volunteers. The centre run by France Terre d’Asile is in St Omer not Calais and can only accommodate 40 – 45 boys (original capacity was 30). Other kids sleep in a disused school but also there places are nowhere near sufficient. Most kids at night do not want to stay in a centre for minors, they want to try for England. Many were already in centres for minors across France but have left after being let down by the UK and French governments, and are now sleeping rough and risking their lives jumping in the back of lorries to go to the UK. See also: https://passeursdhospitalitesenglish.wordpress.com/2017/02/12/calais-minors-under-the-snow/
More kids will be thrown out in the streets by the 20th February when the whole CAOMIE (centres for minors) scheme comes to an end, without any solution afterwards. The authorities have no plan for the extreme cold in Calais this year. All services including the most essential have been cut off – zero tolerance towards migrants sleeping in the Calais area. Sleeping out in sub-zero temperatures is life-threatening. To stop people from crossing police are using very violent methods, that are also life-threatening, such as firing gas grenades and rubber bullets directly at people, and minors are not spared. Gangs of fascists are looking for migrants and taking photos and film. Risk of being attacked by violent mobs of racists is high, especially at night. Police have been following volunteers distributing vital humanitarian aid and are disrupting food distributions, kids just run when they see the police. Kids are not eating enough, nobody is eating enough, they are lucky if they get a meal. The mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchart has initiated legal action to close the day centre of Secours Catholique, where many kids sleeping in the area find shelter during the day, and has put a skip in front of the showers’ entrance to stop access.
The official camp in Dunkirk is hosting over 1000 people including many minors. A recent article in The Guardian has highlighted the abuse women and children endure, including rape and beatings. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/12/dunkirk-child-refugees-risk-sexual-violence?
Meanwhile in Paris people continue to arrive, and more and more end up sleeping in the streets. Including many minors. A new camp of 300 people near Porte de la Chapelle was destroyed by police in the night between the 9th and the 10th February. Photos and film here: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1779020532424578&id=100009499466124&pnref=story.unseen-section Large stones were put on the ground to prevent people to sleep there. Police are regularly destroying tents and blankets, even with sub-zero temperatures. While in Paris, RRDP researchers were confronted by “alarming” scenes in the La Chapelle district.“While we were there, we witnessed the police taking people’s belongings — some in the night, some in the daytime — it’s quite a visible phenomenon,” said Natalie Stanton, RRDP Deputy Director wrote. Research conducted by this groups is showing that 59.6 percent of refugees said they had been woken up by police and forced to move during the night, with 54 percent describing the experience as “violent”, and 52 percent saying they “felt scared”. At the same time, 36.5 percent of respondents said they had experienced other forms of police violence in Paris, including physical beatings and verbal abuse. A third had their sleeping bag, tent, blanket, clothes or other belongings taken by police, citizens, or other refugees. The official camp opened by the mayor of Paris Annie Hidalgo only takes up to 50 male adults per day, as 50 per day are sent to CAO (welcome centres across France) but many more people arrive; many leave CAO because their needs and expectations are not met. The camp for women and children has yet to open and the facilities for minors are totally insufficient – some minors are put in hotels, paid for by associations, some are sheltered in people’s homes but many are in the streets.
CAO stands for Centre d’accueil et orientation, Welcome and Orientation Centre but in fact the orientation is absent, except when there are local associations to provide it. In some CAO people had to make their asylum applications without even having seen an interpreter in their own language. Applying for asylum in France is the only option at the end, other than being put in the streets again. People are often not told they can be deported if they have finger prints in Dublin countries. People are even lied to, as it happened to the migrants in Calais ‘jungle’, who were encouraged to go to CAO on the basis of an oral promise by Bernard Cazeneuve, former Interior minister, that they would not be put on Dublin procedure. Cazeneuve has been known to lie through his teeth on several occasions, so why did anyone trust his ‘oral promise’? Deportations to Dublin countries have increased. See also: https://passeursdhospitalitesenglish.wordpress.com/2017/02/08/dublin-again-inside-and-outside-the-caos/
People are also threatened with deportation to countries at war and two Sudanese have been deported back to Sudan. Detention centres are full and deportations at an historical high.
I question the responsibility of the associations who collaborated with the government during Calais eviction, even giving their approval to the ‘plan Cazeneuve’: eviction of the ‘jungle’ in one week and forced displacement of some 10.000 people under threat by heavy armed police, without real solutions and without longer term plans. The only ‘solution’ is to apply for asylum in France, and from a disadvantaged position, leading to a higher rate of refusals – resulting in higher numbers of people at risk to be deported, also to countries at war. Which is in line with the overall response of the European governments to the refugee ‘crisis’: more refusals, more deportations, more push backs, more prisons and more walls. How could the associations ‘get along’ with the plan cazeneuve? Why did the Presidents of these associations think it was a good plan? Please read the open letter, English translation in the footnotes. http://www.secours-catholique.org/sites/scinternet/files/comm_presse/lettre_ouverte_au_president_de_la_republique_29_09_2016.pdf What is happening now was totally predictable then, and the eviction should have been opposed altogether, until real solutions were proposed.
Living conditions in CAO and CAOMIE (CAO for unaccompanied minors) variate very much: some centres are quite nice but some are truly terrible: cold, squalid, overcrowding, not enough food, not enough toilets and showers, insects, lack facilities, lack of activities, sheer boredom, isolation; specific to CAOMIE: lack of care, no access to education, no psychologists, no trained staff, rigid discipline, bullying by bigger kids, in some cases even proximity to adults. There have been protests and hunger strikes in many CAO and CAOMIE. Kids are already traumatized by war and by the journey. A minor in CAOMIE has committed suicide and another has tried to commit suicide (that I know of) by jumping from a window. Many minors have left already and many have gone to Paris or Calais.
Many of the minors in Paris and Calais are returning but most are new, having arrived in Europe recently. There have never been so many children travelling alone, as the world becomes an increasingly dangerous place. Only a minority of the kids makes it to Europe, where they are not welcome. From Greece to the Balkans, from Italy to France thousands of children are in the streets, in the care of nobody, exposed to all sorts of dangers including being sold into slavery, killed for their organs, or more commonly exploited, including being forced into labour, drug dealing, petty theft or prostitution. Over 10.000 minors have disappeared in Europe and nobody knows what happened to them. The lucky ones who make it are not out of danger: the UK (and Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands, Germany and France want to start ) are deporting former child asylum seekers after they turn 18 – to Afghanistan in particular. The security situation in Afghanistan has never been worst, internal displacement is very high and thousands of children are at risk of dying of starvation. It is a hard and cruel reality and the truth needs to be known.
The only people who can make a difference are you and me. The only people who can make a difference are the citizens who stand in solidarity, who send humanitarian aid, who volunteer in Calais (or Paris, or Greece), who protest in front of Downing Street, who welcomed children and vulnerable people in their homes. In France the solidarity movement is huge, from the Roya Valley to Paris and to Calais so many people open their homes to refugees and other migrants, or driving them around, risking arrest and being taken to court – but so far nobody has been sent to prison for solidarity ‘crime’. Solidarity is everything, united we stand, divided we fall.
The wall of Calais appears rather small. Nearby I found discarded gas canisters.
The containers camp is being dismantled. According to some sources, the containers are being moved to a location out of Calais to accommodate unaccompanied minors.
Open letter of the associations to Hollande : http://www.secours-catholique.org/sites/scinternet/files/comm_presse/lettre_ouverte_au_president_de_la_republique_29_09_2016.pdf
Last week, Ms Cosse and Mr Cazeneuve met our associations in order to present the plan to dismantle the Calais “jungle” of Calais where thousands of exiles live in pitiful conditions.
We have informed the ministers that our organisations would support such a plan, and could go along with it, if all the measures to permit the protection and respect to the fundamental human rights of the people are guaranteed. You yourself, when you visited the site, reminded us that the State would find a worthy and effective solution to this humanitarian tragedy.
However, there remains one unanswered question concerning the dismantlement of the Jungle: it regards the progressive disappearance of all the apparatus created over the last two years and comprises of the Jules Ferry “welcome” day centre and the centre of temporary “welcoming” (CAO)
We hope that these facilities can continue to provide a humane and dignified solution in this very complex situation where exiles will attempt – regardless of their motivation – to travel to Great Britain from Calais.
It is our wish that this apparatus remain until a humane and dignified solution can be brought to the very complex situation of exiles who wish to – whatever their motivation – to travel from the United Kingdom from Calais. Otherwise, we would return to exactly the situation that prevailed during the years after the closure of the Sangatte centre, the utter abandonment of hundreds of men, women and children living in the streets, woods and squats of Calais, even more at the mercy of the criminal smuggler networks and dangers of all sorts, both summer and winter.
Nobody seriously believes that there will be no more attempts to reach the UK. No one seriously believe that this will lead to an overnight decline in migrants heading to Calais. So how to respond in a pragmatic and humane way to this difficult situation? It is on this question which we have worked for years, for a long time without any support from the State, for three years on a difficult road, for three years in a real partnership [with the State]
We cannot support or participate a dismantlement project which will annihilate of this the work while it remains useful.
We demand of you, Mr President, to confirm the maintaining in place of the humanitarian assets of the Jules Ferry Center and the CAP whilst the migrant fluxes towards Calais continue and to make it so that the work of the public authorities with the associations remains a work of confidence and transparency.
Please accept, Mr. President of the Republic, our highest consideration..
Véronique Fayet, Présidente Secours Catholique – Caritas France
Thierry Khun, Président Emmaüs France
Christian Salomé, Président L’Auberge des Migrants
Louis Gallois, Président FNARS
Françoise Sivignon, Présidente MdM