Fr Dominic Howarth, parish priest at Basildon, has just made his monthly visit to the Calais jungle to deliver shoes and other essentials to refugees – as winter approaches many only possess flipflops. You can read about it here: calais-october-2016-reflection. It gives an insight into life at the camp, and the amazing work of Care4Calais and other charities in ever more difficult conditions.
Fr Dominic gives a summary of the bigger picture below:
· This weekend, the Home Office has agreed the 387 children documented as having relatives in the UK can now come to the UK.
· This is undoubtedly a good and positive thing, but it will leave approx. 500 children (who do not have relatives in the UK) still within the Calais Jungle, unaccompanied and at risk.
· The demolition of the camp could begin at any time; various reports had suggested this Monday but getting the 387 children out may delay that by a week or two.
· The French Government is unclear about whether the containers that currently house approx. 1500 refugees could remain.
· They are very clear that the packed area of tents which is home to about 8,500 people will be demolished.
· They have spoken of dispersing the refugees across France into centres of approx. 150-200 people, but it is very, very unclear how this is intended to work. The refugees, who have regularly had tear gas and rubber bullets fired at them by French police, do not want to stay in France, in many cases. Additionally, a good number – perhaps as many as 2,000 – have a claim to come to the UK, as they have relatives here. No British Consul in Calais means the first time they can make such a claim is after they have (illegally) travelled to the UK.
· There are nightly injuries, and there have been several deaths, caused by the increasing desperation of the refugees to get to the UK prior to the demolition of the camp.
· None of the politics or economics of this is simple. But we have spent £19 million on fences and millions every month sharing the costs of the security operations with France. Had this money been spent on a Consular presence, on legal assistance, or even just on simple dialogue with the refugees, the picture now could look very different.
· The likely outcome of the demolition is that the refugees will disperse up the coast of France and Belgium. Half the camp was demolished in February; numbers diminished for about a month before growing again, and the camp is now the biggest it has ever been. Demolition is not a solution to the complex needs and problems of our brothers and sisters in Calais.
· Once dispersed, the charities working in Calais will do their best to continue to bring aid to the refugees; it will be a much harder task.
· And all of this as winter approaches.
Please pray for refugees everywhere, and for peace in the countries from which they come.
With every blessing
If you want to help:
Fr Dominic and his volunteers travel from Basildon approximately once a month with aid; you can read all the reports back to September 2015 at www.basildoncatholics.org. He says: “As ever, thank you to all who have donated so far. Financial donations mean we can buy large numbers of the same item, at wholesale rates, which is the best way to supply aid in terms of both practicality and value.
“We will continue to use all donations directly to support the refugees – literally every penny is spent on aid, delivered directly to the warehouse (our ferry and petrol costs are privately funded). Many, many thanks for any support that you can give. ”
Cheques can be made payable to “Our Lady and All Saints”, and posted to:
Fr Dominic Howarth, Calais Appeal, Holy Trinity Church, 71 Wickhay, Basildon SS15 5AD.
If you want to volunteer or take donations please do not just turn up in Calais. Useful contacts are via www.care4calais.org or email Phil and Ben at Seeking Sanctuary – [email protected]. They are also selling Christmas cards to raise money for supplies for the refugees.