A small organisation promoting awareness of migrants near our shores and providing humanitarian assistance to those currently stranded in and near Calais.
There are currently over 9000 migrants in the Calais camp, including a growing minority of women and children. Most live in overcrowded and squalid conditions in what is known as 'The Jungle', though some basic necessities such as showers and refuse removal have been improved a little. Seeking Sanctuary works with experienced individuals and organisations to provide basic necessities.To date we have with the help of various organisations facilitated the delivery of a number of carloads and vanloads of goods and linked donors of cash to projects. Faith Communities and other organisations from across Kent and South London and further afield have taken collections and our thanks goes to all those involved. If your organisation would would like to help, the "want list" from one organisation (updated weekly) can be found at this website and another at this website.
If it is difficult for you to get items to collection points, you may find items available at bargain prices in on-line clearance sales and auctions - and these can usually be delivered to us, rather than to your home. (Postal address available upon request.)
Please make an effort to sort and separate donated goods into boxes or durable sacks and label each of them with the type of item enclosed (e.g., jeans, trainers ...) and size: this aids their speedy and accurate distribution in Calais and reduces the demands upon precious volunteer time for sorting in Calais. We can help you to get goods taken to a Calais warehouse operated by an established local agency whence there are regular distributions to the migrants. Please check that there is sufficient transport and warehouse capacity before starting your collection. There are also very serious issues to consider if you are thinking of delivering delivering direct to the 'jungle' - please contact us for further advice.
We have very limited UK storage space for ourselves. Please check with us before planning any further collections so that we can advise how best to get goods to Calais.
Please note that we are rarely able to collect individual donations of items ourselves, but these can almost always be brought to a collection point somewhere in the UK - details of how to locate your nearest project upon request.
'A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization – all typical of a throwaway culture – towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter' (Pope Francis).
You can scroll down to read our latest news updates and use the "Contact" tab at the top of the page to subscribe to email alerts.
'Each human life is precious in the eyes of God'
'Each human life is precious - and as many parts of the world fall into chaos we must redouble our efforts to ensure that the needs and rights of vulnerable human beings from war torn countries who need sanctuary are valued and respected. Our partners in Calais much appreciate the concern evident from our side of the Channel.'
Ben Bano, 'Seeking Sanctuary'
'We must all learn to live together like brothers; otherwise we will die together like idiots' (sign outside the home of Adam, a resident in the 'jungle')
Ben and Marie-Claude Bano with a consignment of goods at the 'Secours Catholique' warehouse in Calais. Our thanks on this occasion to the parishioners of Ashford, Aylesham and Deal for their generosity.
Thanks to the parishioners of Tunbridge Wells for their generous donations of trainers and other goods
You can find comments from visitors to this site here.
A call for generosity and understanding - BIshop Jean-Paul Jaeger of Arras, Bishop Trevor Willmott of Dover and Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark in Calais on 19th September 2015 (Independent Catholic News), signing a joint statement of solidarity.
(Those wishing to pray for the migrants and their plight will find resources here.)
These are tragedies on an enormous scale and a stark reminder that more lives could be lost if those seeking safety are left at the mercy of the sea. Saving lives should be our top priority. Europe cannot afford to do too little too late," (UNHCR).
Food is in short supply. There is a need both for items to use when cooking thousands of daily meals and for items to go into packs for a week or a day's supply for a family. You can find out more about what is needed at this website: www.calaidipedia.co.uk/calais-kitchens
New Dunkirk Camp at Grande Synthe, arranged by MSF
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19 August 2016
Stocks, Orthodox Church, Food, Books, Needs and Burials: A Calais Visit by Phil.
I went to Calais on 17 August, a fine and sunny day with no delays on the roads, taking my neighbour, Barbara, on her first visit to the warehouses and “Jungle”.
We first went to the 'Auberge des Migrants' / 'Help Refugees' warehouse and later to the Care4Calais establishment. For the moment, both of them have good numbers of volunteers - but substitutes will be needed once the holiday season ends. They have decent stocks of some items, but others are in perilously short supply. Often 100 people can arrive in one day, generally with worn out shoes and clothes and no tents or bedding
Just now, shoes (either for indoor "shower" wear or as outdoor footwear), sturdy tents, torches and lanterns, towels, roll mats, warm blankets, other bedding and deodorant are in very short supply as, of course, is food. They have made more alterations to their systems since I last visited, aiming to operate more smoothly with a one-way flow of goods. Rather than distribute goods which may turn out to be unwanted, much effort goes into getting orders from residents for delivery or collection on the following day. New garments or shoes are greatly appreciated, as is the ability of people to exercise some small element of choice in deciding what to wear. Nothing is wasted, with inappropriate donations being diverted to central Europe when there is space in passing lorries, or sent as return loads to the UK for a charity to sort for sale in shops or recycle. (Also, some goods are retained for sale to visitors at the Auberge warehouse.)
With a permit, we drove into the camp to deliver to Jungle Books. For some reason the police would neither let us enter via the main entrance nor park there, and insisted we went via Chemin des Dunes, where our passports and permit were carefully scrutinised. Later the police approach had changed and UK cars were moving freely in that area! Our first stop was at the Orthodox church to drop off a piece of red carpet. It was very busy with the feast of the Assumption coming up in their calendar, preceded by a week of fasting and prayer. The chanting went on for many hours with different people coming and going.
At one point we went to get a canned drink from one of the informal shops near the camp entrance. The once-thriving walkway presented a dismal face with outlets saved from demolition but still prohibited from cooking meals. With the town centre about 7km away, they had not only made an essential contribution to nutrition, but had also been an important place for socialising calmly in the midst of an overcrowded and fraught atmosphere.
The state supplies about 3500 meals a day, usually not very attractive and served to long lines of people who may wait for up to four hours. This equates to one daily meal for just under 40% the current population of over 9000. When there are sufficient resources, four community kitchens provide almost 5000 more much appreciated free meals each day, supported by donations of “catering quantities” of ingredients and money. In addition to this, some people have cooking utensils and are provided with small packs to prepare hot or cold meals for themselves.
With the opportunity to buy meals in the camp eliminated, hundreds now go hungry and the population is increasing by 70 or more every day. The community kitchens face great challenges and you can read more about each of them and how to support them here: www.calaidipedia.co.uk/calais-kitchens
At Jungle Books, adjoining the church, we dropped off a set of Children's Encyclopedia Britannica, two boxes of dictionaries and vocabulary exercises, a few primary level English workbooks and a box of school library books, plus a folding table. Later we were delighted to find a small educational stock in one warehouse, who accepted our offerings at GCSE level. As a volunteer at a local Oxfam shop, Barbara was particularly interested to find out about the many unsaleable items – like odd saucepans and pans – that could be sent to Calais to be used rather than going off to be recycled. The message to charity shops is the same as to others: “Send unsaleable things that are on the 'wanted' lists and also get in touch to enquire if there may be uses for similar but unlisted items.” (And better still, send unused items!) In all cases, please do make sure that items are clean and sorted, and label the packages: this saves considerable time an effort when the donations reach Calais.
The current needs lists can be found here www.calaidipedia.co.uk/site/calaisaid/current-needs and here http://care4calais.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/priority-items-23-May-16.pdf (the date appearing in the link is irrelevant to the content, which is regularly updated!). Or you can volunteer for skilled or unskilled work once the summer holiday crowd has left – the relevant information can be found at www.calaidipedia.co.uk/how-to-help
As we left the “Jungle” we took a drive down Chemin des Dunes to see the uninviting dormitories inside their fenced compound. Also, the entrance to the Jules Ferry Centre for women and children at the extreme end of the camp, where the state-supplied meals are distributed. Failing to make contact with a couple of busy people we had just time left for a brief visit to the cemetery at Vieux Coquelles, pausing at the paupers graves in sight of the Eurotunnel tracks, holding the bodies of young people killed when trying to board those trains.
16 August 2016
Sowing One Million Poppies In A Refugee Camp
Caroline Gregory, a long time volunteer in Calais, ponders the parallels between the wastelands created a century ago and the land created near Calais today, churned up by rubber bullets, tear gas and earth movers, and still occupied by 9,000 people fleeing terrible regimes and living in abject squalor. Poppies have arrived in both places – a flower of remembrance and they should direct our current and future actions. One hundred years on from the Battle of the Somme, we are still condemning people to live in fear and despair. Do please read the complete essay at www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/caroline-gregory/calais-jungle-remembrance-poppies-refugee_b_11537212.html
10 August 2016
MP Asks for Action
Stella Creasy (Labour) MP for Walthamstow visited Calais and, seeing the current situation - especially the lack of progress on processing claims for family reunification - was inspired to record a video during her journey back the UK. She points out that the situation results from political decisions and pressures and suggests that Mrs May should be asked to restore a Ministerial post with clear responsibility for trying to find solutions and become the person to contact about refugee issues.
You can watch her video here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSuUaHeJ0Ig
8 August 2016
It's now a year since Seeking Sanctuary became active in organising much-needed aid for Calais. In that time we have had the privilege of responding to numerous offers of help as well as helping to channel significant sums of money raised by well wishers such as yourselves to the places where it is most needed. When we look back over the last year, there is much to be thankful for in spite of the dismal conditions of the “jungle”. The plight of so many migrants inspired hundreds of volunteers and newly created voluntary organisations which proved essential, given the lack of will of both the British and the French governments to tackle the problems on a more strategic scale. And the reactions from so many organisations, including Faith Communities and schools and numerous other organisations, have been nothing short of inspiring. And a special word of thanks to the Religious Communities who continue to support us with their prayers, good wishes, and material support. We estimate that during the year we have raised over £30,000 to pass on to those who deliver to the needy in Calais and Dunkirk, as well as assisting in the start-up of other groups who have raised yet more cash, as well as collecting and delivering significant quantities of clothes, toiletries, food and other essentials.
The latest census shows that the issue of migration to Calais is not going away – if anything it is getting worse, with an estimated 7000 people now living in often squalid conditions in about half of the original “jungle” area. The attitude of the French authorities continues to be ambivalent and highly confrontational and there are rumours that the authorities intend to demolish the rest of the jungle during September. The informal restaurants and shops on which the camp economy has depended have been closed down or severely restricted with the authorities confiscating much of the stock. And yet life goes on – new services meet the needs of children and of women have sprung up and others specialise in all sorts of fields: medical and social care, entertainment, education, drainage, waste management, to name but a few. The number of unaccompanied children has reached record levels and now stands at 608.
We continue to advocate for these children to have their claims expedited to be reunited with relatives in the UK - as well as the inhumanity of leaving children as young as eight on their own there is a real risk of trafficking through abduction. And in spite of the efforts of a committed group of social workers who go to Calais weekly to help to prepare some of the required documentation, recent legal judgements are making the process ever more difficult and protracted.Today, the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee has issued a report on the Migration Crisis. It comments that 'It is clear that many people in these camps [in Europe] are entitled to humanitarian protection or refugee status, and that their claims should be processed in the UK. Much more could and should be done through family reunion and accepting unaccompanied children, including increased use of safe and legal migration routes. ... ... the 157 unaccompanied children now in Calais who have family members in the UK "should already have arrived" in the UK. The Government should as a one-off accept all of these children into the UK now.'
Our appeal this month is the same – in whatever situation you find yourself, please do everything possible to ensure that the plight of migrants on our doorstep and beyond is not forgotten. Lobbying your MP and local Councillors or organising a social gathering to raise funds are all ways in which we can ensure that in this currently xenophobic climate, the needs of so many destitute people on our doorstep are not forgotten.
On the domestic front, on appeal, the UK Court of Appeal yesterday considerably tightened up on the conditions under which vulnerable people in Calais and other places can make a direct application to the UK to join familiy members already resident. Instead, they must work through the often prolonged "Dublin III" process in the country in which they are temporarily resident. On the other hand, our government has finally come up with a methodology for approving groups to run community sponsorship schemes, so providing an additional a way to get involved in supporting the resettlement of vulnerable people who flee conflict.
14 July 2016
Excerpts from Reflections on Conversations in the Calais “Jungle”
by Fr Dominic Howarth
The full illustrated account can be found here.
One of the two Care4Calais warehouses is completely empty. The other is barely two thirds full. In the ten months since starting to visit, we have never seen it like this. It is a far, far cry from the time last September when donations were coming in faster than warehouses could be found. The aid now is only the raw essentials and there is nowhere near enough to meet the needs.
Every bit of charity here is piecemeal: small and dedicated groups doing what they can. Where, in all these months, have the aid agencies been? Where are they now? Only Médecins sans Frontières is present here, focussed on medical aid. In such circumstances, as the donations to these little groups dry up, food is for the first time becoming a significant problem. We met a lady from the Calais Kitchen who provide 2000 meals a day. Efficient and brilliant use of money, and absolutely vital aid. Until last Thursday when the money literally ran out. The 2,000 people due to get meals that day did not get them. They had launched an emergency appeal on social media, raised 24,000 euros, and that will keep things going for another three weeks. This is pitiful, hand-to-mouth aid.
We helped with a survey to improve the distribution of food. This gave an opportunity for the deepest conversations that I have had with the refugees ; it was a luxury, really, to talk at length, to understand better where people have started from. I also had an interpreter, a wonderful Afghani. His story? He had served as the head of aviation security at Kabul airport – he had been so well regarded that he had welcomed teams from Heathrow and Gatwick to see his work in Kabul. He earned $1400/month – an excellent salary. And then, of course, the British left Afghanistan, and the Taliban took control, and people who had worked alongside the British were in peril.
All afternoon I chatted with professional, gifted people. I met a wedding photographer from Ethiopia, a Computer Science student from Kandahar, a man with a Masters in Business Administration who had worked in logistics for an American firm. Later, I met a businessman, who had run an import/export business in soap and detergent products. He had been forced out by ISIS. Now he stays in Calais, running a little shop, using his gifts and talents to make a living there.
Throughout the afternoon I looked into the eyes of people perhaps ten or twenty years younger than me who had already lived for more lifetimes than I will ever know ; often, tears welled up, and they shared their stories while looking at me through glistening eyes. Yet these are not men seeking pity, or handouts. I met only decency, and dignity - such extraordinary dignity. These are gifted, courageous men who just want a chance to live in peace.
What are they met with, if they leave the Calais camp? Tear gas, rubber bullets, and truncheons. I met a medical team and asked them about what I was hearing; “Yes”, they said, “Every day we treat legs and arms that are fractured and bruised from police beatings. Last week we took seven people to hospital; they were concussed from blows to the head.” The tear gas is especially insidious lungs are choked up to such a degree that it can take three or four days to start breathing normally again.
Undoubtedly, the Calais police face great difficulties and troubles, night after night.
But is this it, then? Refugees with no defences, refugees who have travelled thousands of miles to flee atrocities more horrific than many of us could ever imagine, refugees with gifts and talents desperate to start a new life: these people, our brothers and sisters, being clubbed off border fences, choked with tear gas and shot at with rubber bullets? In Northern Europe? In 2016?
2 July 2016
You will notice from our recent press releases that our concern for the abandoned children of Calais continues. In our view the process of identifying children and placing them with relatives is proving far too long and cumbersome. Phil has been in active contact with a number of agencies and we are now working with a group of social workers who would like to simplify, standardise and speed up the whole process. We will keep you in touch with developments.
Meanwhile the post Brexit agenda has taken a worrying turn. It seems that the plight of migrants so close to our shores will be even further down the agenda amidst the continued posturing and rhetoric about migration. It's worrying enough that EU citizens already working here feel insecure, but what must it be like for those who are still wanting to seek sanctuary in our country?
The problems and challenges do not go away. Father Dominic in his recent report noted that between 50 and 60 people are arriving at Calais every day. Reports from the kitchens and warehouses suggest that stocks of both food and clothes are often close to zero.
Rightly or wrongly the UK seems to have decided that the EU is no longer fit for purpose. Despite its original noble ideals of promoting peace and solidarity and supporting the welfare of others, it has not responded well to the big global issue of the refugee crisis. As the Pope asked, “What has happened to you Europe?”
Earlier this month we passed the15th anniversary of the terrible tragedy when 58 young Chinese men were found dead in a lorry, and yet this date went unnoticed. Somehow we need to overcome the donor fatigue which seems to be present and grapple with the potential for collective amnesia. Ideas welcome!
28 June 2016
Seeking Sanctuary says: Take effective action to help youngsters!
The plight of children in the camps of the North of France has long been a priority concern for us. Two well-researched reports have recently come our way. Both confirm that vulnerable children are suffering violence, trafficking and abuse and that they are not getting any useful or understandable information to help them to make informed decisions about asylum applications.
There has been a little progress with reuniting families. On 21 June, the French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, said that "In 2015 we received 113 applications for family reunification with a very low rate of success of 23.8%. In the first four months of 2016, 118 cases were submitted with a success rate of 60 %. As of June 2016, 46 transfers had been made, 40 of which were for unaccompanied minors." Adding that "dialogue with the United Kingdom is starting to bear fruit for the young people”. However, it is many months since volunteers and agencies identified hundreds of individuals with good grounds for family reunification.
What has our government said?
Complacent UK government statements earlier in 2016 had led many to believe that matters are improving, despite the testimony of MPs and others who had visited Calais and nearby sites.
There has been talk of “a permanent bi-lateral standing committee to improve co-operation on Dublin transfers, particularly family reunion”; “secondment of a senior asylum expert to the French Interior Ministry to improve the process for family cases”; and insistence that “child refugees should be safe in Europe”.
Considerable mistrust has been generated by aggressive police methods and failures of French officials to fulfil promises to peacefully reduce the area of the Calais camp, without coercion or destruction of places of worship. Despite this, we hear that “anyone who does not want to live in the makeshift camps in Calais has the option of engaging with the French authorities, who will provide accommodation and support”. And that “it is vital that a child engages with the French authorities as quickly as possible to ensure that they receive the protection and support they need.”
Apparently there is belief that the UK and France are running a joint communication centre at the camp, which informs individuals of their rights to claim asylum in France and gives them information on family reunification and that people go into the camps to deliver this message and make it very clear. The UK has provided funding to identify vulnerable children and ensure that the necessary facilities are there.
Those working alongside the children do not see much evidence of practical impact!
What does UNICEF say?
In its report “Neither safe nor Sound” we are told that the Pas-de-Calais Departmental Council has contracted France Terre D'Asile (“FTDA”), to attempt to deal with the issue. They claim that teams have contacted the vast majority of unaccompanied children during almost daily visits. But it seems that the FTDA teams are inadequate in relation to the number of sites, the diversity of languages and the mobility of unaccompanied children. Furthermore, it is almost impossible to speak on a confidential basis, given the constant presence of members of their peer groups and adults from their communities. This further reduces the ability of workers to have much impact.
Various organisations, involving activists and citizens do have regular contact with unaccompanied children and can gain their trust. But these people are rarely trained in working with children at risk, and are not likely to know about details of immigration and asylum regulations. In addition, they are unlikely to speak the language of the migrants – English, French and Arabic are insufficient in most cases.. Information transmittal is uneven and partial and rarely addresses the possibilities of protection in France, in which some youngsters are interested. People must communicate regularly in a language and age-appropriate form, also adapting other communication tools.
Governments need to dedicate sufficient resources to enable family reunification, reducing the duration of the process. The term “family” must be understood in its broadest sense, taking account of the best interests of the child as the most important consideration. Children require access to high quality legal assistance.
Unaccompanied children along the Channel coast can be subject to violations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which both France and the UK have ratified. Children's best interests must be taken into account and their rights be respected, wherever they are. France needs to act urgently to give them all all access to rights and basic services, including protection from abuse, violence and exploitation, and access to health and to education. Ministers in charge of children's matters must be involved, and share information to ensure that processes are driven by the best interests of the children.
What does “Social Work First” say?
This group of social workers supplies voluntary expertise in refugee situations and members have been working with established groups in Calais to identify unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, and have started to carry out assessments to try to strengthen their legal cases to get to the UK. A report based upon some of their practical work can be access via the “Info” page of their website.
They find that there is no uniform or complete system for recording the numbers of children, their needs – including medical concerns – and their progress. They have formed the opinion that claims are not processed rapidly due to over-reliance on unavailable documentation from the child’s home country to determine a link with relatives.
Many children do want to remain in France or are in the process of deciding. One reason may be a lack of engagement and little interaction between FTDA and the young people in places where they gather. Hence they fail to get information about their options and for their fears are not allayed. Very few assessments of needs have been undertaken to support the legal claims of children and identify their individual needs.
They propose that better and more uniform records are maintained and that authorities should work with and support volunteers and charities to assist them to effectively collect and share this information. (Include guidance on what information to collect and who to share it with.) They point out that age appropriate information is presented to young people in a sensitive manner, and that children without families in the UK are supported to claim asylum in France. Each child should have an individual and updated assessment of needs to support their legal claims.
Above all, they urge the French and British governments to assume responsibility, under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and begin to formulate an effective response to the Child Protection crisis within Europe.
What does Seeking Sanctuary say?
It's high time that governments started to listen to people working directly with those affected by their policies and start to fund effective and practical work, instead of making statements and allocating resources solely upon the basis of high level meetings and data that is, at best, second-hand.
It's difficult to imagine serious Anglo-French discussions taking place and genuine progress being made in this febrile post-Brexit political atmosphere. Politicans need to be encouraged by pressure coming from voters. Now is above all the time to lobby and ask for really useful action!
SOME RELEVANT PETITIONS (AT 25 JUNE, 2016)
(Click on a title or link to go to web page to read and sign a petition or see a template letter to amend and send)
Provide urgent medical support to vulnerable people in Calais - 81,200 signatures
Britain must not turn its back on child refugees in Europe – 72,246 signatures
"APPEL DE CALAIS": We solemnly demand the government makes a wide emergency plan to release the Calais jungle from the indignities it is suffering – 49,269 signatures
Include the 269 Syrians in Calais in UK Refugee Plan - 17,319signatures
Save Lone Child Refugees In Europe – 17,460 signatures
Bring Europe's Unaccompanied Refugee Children to the UK Now – 12,222 signatures
Step in & safely reunite refugee minors in the EU with their families in the UK - 9,913 signatures
UK: Help bring refugee families back together (email your MP)
Please act now to Let Refugees Learn (Remove barriers for access to English classes)
Support family reunion for refugees
Stand As One With people forced to flee
End indefinite detention for Asylum Seekers (Write to your MP)
Support Refugees (Appeal to European Leaders) – 6,138 signatures
Protect Refugees Fleeing Violence and Persecution – 24,263 signatures
Stop the bombs so Syrian refugees can go home – 176,175 signatures
TWO ADDITIONS - 30 June 2016
- Condemn the rise in racism and state how you are tackling the problem across the UK - 57,667 signatures
- Call on David Cameron, and whomever follows him as the British Prime Minister, to take action to protect refugees fleeing war in Syria, Afghanistan, and elsewhere ... .
13 June 2016
Continuing the visits of a team from Basildon
The full report, with illustrations is here; a few extracts follow below.
There are between fifty and sixty arrivals EVERY DAY in Calais at the moment - 300-400 a week, around 1500 a month. And it is only June. The warehouses are anxious - ever since two thirds of the Camp was bulldozed there has been a marked drop in media and public interest. The donations have reduced, and the warehouses are emptying.
A volunteer reflected, "It is a very particular kind of aid here. Normally aid is either very basic survival rations, or helping rebuild communities. But in Calais there is something more than basic survival - and something that is not able to be a permanent community. Build anything too permanent and it will be bulldozed, anyway." And so it is a limbo - and such awful, appalling boredom. Creative people have often had to flee professional jobs and good lives. They have energy, and gifts and talents - and they are traumatised and scarred.
We were involved in trouser distribution. This was a forceful reminder of the very great hardships there are as a Refugee - hardships we may not consider or even notice, perhaps, until they became realities for us. People are hungry but no-one is starving, shelter is often very basic but no-one is sleeping outside, people are ill and in pain but there is limited provision for just the most serious medical emergencies at a nearby hospital. And yet there is a different kind of hardship: the trouser distribution highlights it.
You have a choice of shops, and online. You can try things on. You can look at different styles, sizes and colours. And probably if you are more than three or four minutes queuing for someone to help you or to serve you, perhaps a certain impatience sets in?
What if all your clothes were handouts, if you had no great opportunity to pick for yourself, to make any choice? Also for food, the toothpaste brand, the type of soap or deodorant. Fellow human beings are completely reliant on basic charity, just 22 miles from England and two miles from one of the largest passenger and freight ports in Europe?
Volunteers encounter refugees who are skilled, creative people. They try to help their skills get used, for the good of the camp. And so an Afghan Refugee with amazing skill in kite-making had been spotted and given a little project to be able to teach others how to make kites, and fly them. With kites made from cast off bits of wood and materials it does, in a rather poignant way, also suit the circumstances of Calais. For Afghans, kite flying is a fiercely competitive sport and it gives a little taste of home. Above all, it relieves the endless tedium and boredom. If only everyone in the UK could come and make kites with the refugees, how different could perceptions be!
As I pray about all this. I pray for everyone involved - the refugees, the volunteers, and the police. And I pray for the politicians, for the large charities with a depth of money and resources, and for church leadership - at some point surely someone with the right voice, and the right convictions, will speak into this situation in a way that is heard, in a way that changes hearts and minds, so as to give hope, courage and understanding to those with the power to give the refugees the welcome and the new beginnings that they need and deserve.
The hashtag is indeed a poignant cry from the heart - #iamhumantoo
Many, many thanks for any support that you can give. To set up your own project, or to volunteer at the Camp, seek advice - please don't just turn up at the Camp. Contact Seeking Sanctuary (email@example.com) or Care4Calais via Facebook and they will help you.
11 June 2016
At a recent visit to Calais Ben had the privilege of joining a pottery group in the Secours Catholique Day Centre where a dozen refugees from Eritrea were expressing their hopes and dreams. Those taking part had a common purpose: some were modelling boats with young men at the oars - these looked really flimsy and echoed some of the stories we have heard about boats which are quite unfit for crossing the Mediterranean. Others were modelling a symbolic bridge between France and England with themselves crossing that bridge. If only life were that simple ! It was a privilege not just to be with the group but to begin to understand their fears - that nothing will happen to them and for them while the stalemate in Calais and Dunkirk continues.
On 26 May Phil went to see the situation for himself and to bring much needed goods and a links to his photos from that visit are posted below. They reveal the immense changes that have taken place, with the development of important warehouse operations run by volunteers (and aid agencies other than MSF remaining absent) and the clearance of very many dwellings, leaving an ever-increasing number of people crammed into a small area. Several services have grown, including places of worship and of learning - none of them with government or UN funding.
All this links with what we see and hear about the increasing problem of both donor fatigue and the fatigue of the committed people who continue to support the migrants in northern France. Contrary to expectations the population of the camps in both Calais and Dunkirk continues to rise by up to 30 a day and the voluntary organisations are increasingly hard pressed to provide even basic necessities.
In the continued absence of any major aid organisations these problems can also worsen. Our message to our supporters this month is: Keep up your efforts - we will continue to help you too make the best use of your donations, whether goods and money both of which are so desperately needed. You will also find below fascinating and inspiring reports of several visits including those of Sarah Horton with BBC Local Radio on May 23 (resulting in broadcast items which are referenced immediately below this news item); Father Dominic Howarth, also on 23 May; and a group from Bangor, in the diocese of St Asaph in North Wales, who feel a particular bond of solidarity with the migrants in Northern France and who visited on 14 May.
8 June 2016
BBC Local Radio broadcasts items from Sarah Horton's journey to Calais
See below for Sarah's account of this visit on 23 May. Radio Kent was among the stations in SE England that transmitted some material gathered during her time in France. You can listen to an audio clip here, and to a follow-up item here.
26 May 2016
New pictures from Calais
A visit by Phil confirms that the scene has changed greatly since the destruction of many dwellings in February. The camp has not gone away, over 5000 people still rely on aid and the hard work of volunteers - as can be seen in these photos. In this audio clip he talks about his visit during a BBC Radio Kent programme.
24 May 2016
Seeking Sanctuary says “It's time for Action!”
Thanks to Lord Dubs and his supporters, the 2016 Immigration Act obliges the government to take action to help unaccompanied refugee children who are already in Europe to come and resettle in the UK.
Immigration Act 2016
Unaccompanied refugee children: relocation and support
(1) The Secretary of State must, as soon as possible after the passing of this Act, make arrangements to relocate to the United Kingdom and support a specified number of unaccompanied refugee children from other countries in Europe.
(2) The number of children to be resettled under subsection (1) shall be determined by the Government in consultation with local authorities.
(3) The relocation of children under subsection (1) shall be in addition to the resettlement of children under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme.
This is indeed wonderful news, and the hope is that many child refugees will be saved from falling through the cracks in Europe - but the real danger is that the clock is ticking. There is fear that little or nothing will be done because the consultation process is allegedly complicated and lengthy. The project will then be left to fail and children will remain in camps in Europe.
Now is the time for individuals and organisations, and in particular Faith Communities which p4rovide so much of our support, to put pressure on both our MPs and our local authorities to accept agreed number of unaccompanied children – preferably at least five. The government accepted this amendment to the Act with great reluctance!
If you'd like to help admit unaccompanied child refugees into your district - or help foster, find school places, and other support systems - you need to start with your local MP and Councillors. You will be asking them to perform different functions - your MP should be asked to champion the cause and lobby central government for a decent enough financial package to make the project viable. Councillors enabling the nitty gritty of housing children on a limited budget, and you can offer your help by making them aware of grass-roots initiatives, foster care applicants, supportive schools, etc. in your area.
“Citizens UK” have trained teams to take concerted action in a number of places. They have an excellent 8-step Guide to building a successful resettlement campaign (for any refugees, not specifically for unaccompanied children) - www.citizensuk.org/8_step_guide
“Calais Action” has suggested letters to personalise and send to MPs and councillors, and these are available via this link
Also, there is a relevant new petition to sign and share (copy this link and paste into your web browser): www.change.org/p/rt-hon-theresa-may-mp-let-child-refugees-reunite-with-their-families-in-the-uk?utm_source=action_alert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=586637&alert_id=zYmQScdaSZ_I%2F3orLxTm%2B13MEfrub0T5pMp2vcRRkdgYvN2GM8FqfBz3L1Plh1LlACcnPfNgDzR
23 May 2016: Report from trip to Calais with BBC Radio Kent - by Sarah Horton
I apologise for the length of this report, I cannot work out which bite to condense. It s amazing what can be packed into a single day!
I was fortunate enough to be able to accompany reporters from BBC Kent who are producing a series of interviews about refugees in northern France. The reports will hopefully go out across the SE. The reporters were Alex Bish and Matt Davison. They picked me up from a hotel in Tunbridge Wells very early in the morning.
On the way to the Eurotunnel we picked up Howard Cox from Fair Fuel UK & consultant to the freight industry. He does an enormous amount of campaigning on fuel taxation and various other transport issues. I was a little apprehensive when I found out he was coming along, in case we were to be set against each other. When he asked shortly after he got in the car what I thought about the impact on truck drivers, I thought it was indicative of what was going to be a challenging day. It wasn't at all. He turned out to be a very reasonable chap with some media led expectations and he had heard direct reports from Lorry drivers about violence at the port which had influenced (justifiably) his thoughts. We got on well and our different experiences led to some very valuable joint interviews.
When we got to the camp we met up with Annie Gavrilescu from Help Refugees. She is the lady who organises the monthly census. We walked around the camp and as we did so we were interviewed and joint conversations were recorded. Annie spoke of the population make up of the camp, that there were 5200 people there at the beginning of the month and that 30+ people are arriving every day now the weather has improved as small camps are closed elsewhere and people make their way across Europe. It is feared that numbers could grow enormously over the summer. Howard spoke about how the camp was different to his expectations, that it felt tranquil, that people were so friendly and welcoming. I was asked some questions about the violence perpetuated towards lorry drivers and I was able to talk about the fact that it was just a small number of people and they didn't represent the vast vast majority of people in camp, that they condemned the violence. Annie spoke of the shame and regrets that refugees felt in feeling compelled to stow-away. It was a very balanced and reasonable conversation.
The most poignant moment in the camp was when we stood on top of the sand dunes that give you a full view of the camp. The wind had picked up, the rain stung, we shivered. I saw a rat dart between the tents below us. Howard asked about suicides in the camp. Annie spoke about this and that self harm that was prevalent. As a first aider she had treated people. I spoke about the trauma that the children were suffering and the deterioration I had witnessed in their mental health.
Howard is going to try and use his considerable contacts to help the refugees in some way.
We paused for a little while and went to the New Kabul Afghan 'restaurant' where we ate naan and paratha and drank chai. After we accompanied Help Refugees on a targetted food distribution. They knocked on the door of one shelter. Two people from Afghanistan had arrived the day before. They had no shoes, they knew where nothing was. He looked bewildered and shocked.
Unfortunately, all of Calais and surrounding areas were out of diesel and so our appointment in Dieppe had to be cancelled due to fears of being stranded. After driving around to be told 'France was out of diesel' we went to a cafe to eat and make phonecalls. I arranged an appointment at the Care4Calais warehouse. While were where there I was interviewed about what Fleet Aid for Calais and Dunkirk refugees does and a representative from Care4Calais was able to speak about how donations have drastically dropped off, that warehouse supplies were dangerously low at a time the population is increasing rapidly. Both warehouses are so worried and recently refugee kitchens have had to be temporarily shut and clothes distributions halted.
Without food donations, refugees will literally starve. I cannot emphasis enough how important it is that everyone pulls together to prevent this happening.
We then headed over to the L'Auberge warehouse to meet with a group from Lewes. Unfortunately, we took a wrong exit at a difficult junction. A long detour made our fuel situation reach crisis point. We phoned our next interviewee Eric Mattheeuws who owns a large haulage company in Belgium. The day became a little surreal from that point. He told us that there was diesel at a particular station in Calais. We asked if he was certain. 'Yes, I own it'. It turned out to be one of the many refuelling stations for lorries on the road into the camp. Known by hauliers as 'Diesel Alley', it has always looked entirely abandoned to my eyes.
We met him there. There was a slight issue. Unfortunately, although there was thousands of litres of diesel in the tank under our feet there was no way of getting it into the car. Lorry nozzles are larger in diameter than car refuelling pumps. While we contemplated the issue, Eric was interviewed. I listened quietly. Before the camp existed in that location, hundreds of lorries used to refuel at Diesel Alley every day. But unfortunately, it became no longer safe for them to do so as refugees and migrants were able to take advantage of the stationary lorries. He spoke with compassion for those who lived in the camp and anger at the situation and the people smugglers who use organised force. I had a lot of respect for what he said. There are many victims in this crisis, not just the refugees. He and I then headed off in his car for a fuel can. We were able to talk honestly to each other about both our view points and reached similar conclusions.
Interviews were also undertaken at the fuel station with representatives from DFDS. I did not listen to their interview. Unfortunately, the fuel can we brought back with us did not have the right attachment for the car, though it was all we could find and we made the decision to head back home while we could.
The day was invaluable. Not just because a large number of very worthwhile interviews were gathered, but because it allowed people from different backgrounds and view points to come together and talk about the issues that everyone faced. More talking needs to happen between different groups, so that we can work together to lobby the two governments for a sustainable solution.
23 May, 2016: Tea with the Kuwaiti Bedouin
Extracts from Father Dominic Howarth's reflection on his latest visit to Calais.
(Read the fascinating full text, with excellent new photos, here.)
Every visit to the Calais Refugees is different, and this was no exception. My companions were – for the first time since September – an entirely new “crew”, on their first visit to Calais. All were curious, wanting to see things first hand - and each had a certain apprehension. Could they carry a wallet, or would they be robbed? Conversations with others portrayed the refugees as dangerous people, rioting, with knives and fights prevalent – all part of the media portrayal - and how wrong it is.
The absolute key to Calais is in seeing the refugees as our sisters and brothers.
We went to the Care4Calais warehouse, then took art supplies, for a therapeutic project called "HummingBird" located in the part of the camp callously bulldozed in February – Now there is space for the art project, as well as legal and medical services, and a special area the under 18s - like most things in Calais, started by small group of dedicated volunteers.
We met Imad, an engaging young African, talking about football with the deep passion of a Man Utd fan remembering the 2008 UEFA Champions League final, as seen on TV. Something any sports fan could so readily relate to!
We visited the church and saw the shops and cafes - all self-started by refugees, using their talents for cooking, or getting together a few things, causing the group to reflect more on the refugees, their entrepreneurship and their sheer grit and courage to make some normality. The other striking thing was the friendliness of the refugees: “something you'd never get in Seven Kings High Street.”
By the church door is a wonderful and beautiful new painting of Our Lady with Jesus by a refugee artist. Seeing the little church building for the first time was a deeply moving statement of faith. We had brought the pastor votive candles, charcoal and incense - used abundantly in the Eastern Orthodox Christian services.
Then there is the play4calais football pitch - in use very often. Some way off there are the dormitory containers behind high fences - sterile, uncomfortable, and looking in every way like a prison. What a poverty of imagination and what a lack of kindness to use such containers for people already deeply traumatised by what they have fled from, and after the harsh journeys they have made.
There was an offer of tea, made with UHT milk and water boiled over a little wood fire- and a great heap of sugar. Or hosts were Sammy and Sa’ad, are Bedouin, from Kuwait. A persecuted nomadic people! As desert lands have become more valuable (both for oil and for the building of new palaces and playgrounds of the uber-rich), so the Bedouin have been forced more and more to the edges, reviled by citizens and police who want to be rid of them. Sa'ad says; "My sister is in England," speaking of the Bedouin community settled around London's Edgware Road. England is not a random destination, and it is not about benefits or health care, but about family and community. If only this was understood, perhaps hearts and minds would change.
In Calais our friends showed us a valuable example of dignity, human company, kindness - and brotherhood. On the ferry home we considered the day. “If it happened to us, if we suffered from war and terror so much that we had to leave home, I wonder if we would cope?”
This was one of the simplest trips so far – easy distributions, easy journeys – and yet also one of the most profound. Seeing it through the fresh eyes of the young adult volunteers, my heart returned to the words Pope Francis spoke in Greece a few weeks ago: “Refugees are not numbers; they are people who have faces, names and stories, and need to be treated as such”
14 May 2016
Visit by a Group from Bangor
This was the date of a visit from some of our contacts in North Wales. Mark - a USA native - supplies an account here, where he wonders if we have been trained to ignore our compassionate impulses.
6 May 2016
** URGENT CALAIS DONATIONS UPDATE**
(ALSO APPLYING TO DUNKIRK)
(Please see near the end of this message for advice on donating money that, for UK taxpayers, is eligible for Gift Aid.)
Several urgent appeals have arrived during the few days since we sent out our last update. Supplies are running low and there are dozens of new people arriving every day. We draw them to your attention.
One writer says: We are critically low on many many items, the flow of donations has ceased, and by Friday we will have no shoes, no t-shirts, no jumpers. We shortly will have no new clothes for new arrivals to provide them with warmth, a basic human right. That said, we have an abundance of other items, and for that reason, we cannot currently take items that are not on this list.
(Items listed with a LeisureFayre link can be ordered on that site for free delivery to Calais, and a 20% discount has been applied to goods listed on the “Refugee” page.)
If you collect goods on this list - and sort, pack and label them correctly - you can make an appointment to take them to one of the Calais warehouses. If you can't get to Calais we'll be pleased to help you to find a handy drop-off point near your location – or, if other options fail, you can arrange for them to come to an address in Deal. Note that it's often easier to concentrate upon collecting just one class of wanted goods!
Boxer Shorts (Not Y-Fronts)
Trainers 41-44 (https://www.leisurefayre.com…/regatta_stanly_mens_waterpro…)
Hoodies S/M (https://www.leisurefayre.com/produc…/…/trespass_blake_hoodie)
Long Sleeved Tops S/M
Trackies S/M/L (https://www.leisurefayre.com/produc…/…/mens_jersey_jog_pants)
Trackie Bottoms S/M/L
Knickers S/M (NEW ONLY)
Shoes up to 41 (NO HEELS)
Bras (SMALLER CUP SIZES, UP TO C)
Trackie Bottoms 12-17 yrs
Jeans 12-17 yrs
Underwear 12-17 yrs
Trainers up to 41
Baby Formula 2/3
MISCELLANEOUS but VERY IMPORTANT
Thick Blankets (https://www.leisurefayre.com/…/303…/extra_large_warm_blanket)
Sleeping Bags (https://www.leisurefayre.com/produc…/…/trespass_blake_hoodie)
Fire Extinguishers (https://www.leisurefayre.com/…/delta_1kg_fire_extinguisher_…)
Metal Camping Kettles
Washing Up Liquid
Mugs & Cups
Bags for Life
Big Plastic Boxes
MEDICINES (section added for website on 9 May)
- Lip balms, Vaseline (lots of chapped lips)
- Cold & Flu relief
- Chesty cough syrup
- Dissolvable Vitamin C
- Ibuprofen gel
- Small medicine cups
- Vicks/Olbas stick inhaler
- Scabies cream
- Bonjela (desperately needed due to lack of dental care in camp)
All deliveries must get to a warehouse in Calais, such as the one at L'Auberge des Migrants - book in your delivery slot there with firstname.lastname@example.org or work with the Care4Calais warehouse (email@example.com).
Please be effective and organised with your donations and divide them into specific items and sizes. If something's not good enough quality for you to wear, it's not good enough for anyone in the camps either!
It is important that people ordering or collecting and delivering goods do check on the latest lists produced by the Calais warehouses at www.care4calais.org and www.calaidipedia.co.uk/current-needs – and also take a good look at how you can volunteer to go to Calais for a time to help these groups in their essential work. If you can spare a few days, volunteers are urgently needed in Calais!
A useful way to donate money for buying food at wholesale prices in Calais for the camp kitchen - and claim Gift Aid if you are a UK taxpayer - is via the web page https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/calaiskitchens
Monetary donations for other (non-food) purposes can be sent via Help Refugees to be eligible for Gift Aid. You can use the web page https://mydonate.bt.com/charities/helprefugees and state that you want the aid to go to Northern France in the “personalised message” space. The organisation supplies aid to various regions, and in Calais it supports L'Auberge des Migrants.
Additionally, the UK charity CSAN (Caritas Social Action Network) supports Secours Catholique in Calais, if you add a comment “for Calais” when making an on-line payment at
3 May 2016
It's good for any organisation to revisit its aims and mission statement regularly and check that it is still working to the ideals and vision which established it.
Our vision is summarised in the two words of our title: 'Seeking' because this is a consequence of the war and disorder that leads so many innocent people to have to leave their homes and 'Sanctuary' because those who have to flee their homes need a place of welcome and rest. The term 'Sanctuary' transcends technical definitions of 'migrants' and 'asylum seekers' and helps us to realise that all who flee their homes due to the civil wars in Syria and beyond deserve our understanding and support.
We were very struck by the recent visit of the Pope to the island of Lesbos, alongside the Orthodox Patriarchs. As one of the Patriarchs reminded us, it is only through looking into the eyes of someone who has suffered that we are able to see the depth of trauma and suffering that they and their loved ones have experienced. The Pope's gesture of taking three families back to Rome was particularly symbolic.
That is why encounter, listening and accompanying are as important as humanitarian assistance. So many of us who have visited Calais and Dunkirk have been moved by the stories and experiences of those who seek sanctuary in northern France and beyond. It has enabled us to break away from the all too frequent stereotyping to which we are all tempted and see people as the human individuals that they really are. And we and so many others are heartened by the example of solidarity from so many volunteers from the UK - as well as from France and elsewhere - who are prepared to defy the prevailing narrative of intolerance with a narrative of respect and understanding for our fellow human beings.
Nevertheless, humanitarian needs remain considerable, though with slightly different priorities now that winter is over and there seems to be no immediate threat of further expulsions and demolitions. It is important that people ordering or collecting and delivering goods do check on the latest lists produced by the Calais warehouses at www.care4calais.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/priority-items-13-Apr-16.pdf and www.calaidipedia.co.uk/current-needs – and also take a good look at how you can volunteer to go to Calais for a time to help these groups in their essential work.
Over the last month our campaign has been marked by a call to identify and process the claims of children and young people who are still vulnerable in so many ways in Calais, Dunkirk and beyond. For this reason we have campaigned for the 'Dubs amendment' to the Immigration Bill that is currently passing through Parliament, and we were pleased that after its defeat in the House of Commons it was immediately passed on the following day in the House of Lords with slight changes to its wording. However, our concerns remain. In response to questions about the circumstances of vulnerable children, Ministers and civil servants repeat the litany of good efforts that the UK has promised to better the lot of people in and near Syria and appends a list of agreements that may result from talks with their French counterparts. However, full-time volunteers in the camps very rarely see any practical results emerging from these good intentions.
The Children's Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, appeared before a House of Lords Committee on 20 April and her evidence included impressions from a visit to Calais. She was struck by a delay in the system, not only in the process but also in the fact that 'there was not the impetus to register children, offer them instant protection and then proactively look at how to get them through the process with some speed. Focus and speed around some of this would be the first thing, looking at where there are children who are potentially able to find legal routes and putting forward a coherent action plan that could resolve that.' Some of the youngsters do not want to talk and be involved with the French authorities, because they do not trust anyone in authority and are very driven to come to the UK. British volunteers, on the other hand, do know the children and have been offering some care, producing a relationship of trust. The Commissioner considers that there are opportunities to build on this and offer a speedy resolution for the children with a likely cost of only around £75,000 – not an immense sum in the great scheme of things! On the same day the French Human Rights Ombudsman [Défenseur des Droits] issued a lengthy and critical report detailing areas where the authorities had failed to act upon earlier recommendations.
Finally, if you visit our website you will find a recently added link to prayers offered at Leros by Pope Francis and his Orthodox brothers and a new list of links to current petitions – including those related to the needs of unaccompanied minors.
With our thanks for your messages of support and appreciation,
Ben + Phil.
PSA useful way to donate cash for buying food at wholesale prices in Calais for the camp kitchen - and claim Gift Aid if you are a UK taxpayer - is via the web page https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/calaiskitchens
SOME RELEVANT PETITIONS (AT 29 APRIL, 2016)
(Click on a title to go to web page to read and sign a petition)
Provide urgent medical support to vulnerable people in Calais - 81,147 signatures
Britain must not turn its back on child refugees in Europe - 60,595 signatures
"APPEL DE CALAIS": In the name of our common values of asylum and universality. And because we will be stronger tomorrow to fight together against other injustices and poverties. We solemnly demand the government makes a wide emergency plan to release the Calais jungle from the indignities it is suffering – 49,107 signatures
Include the 269 Syrians in Calais in UK Refugee Plan - 17,214 signatures
Save Lone Child Refugees In Europe – 16,676 signatures
Bring Europe's Unaccompanied Refugee Children to the UK Now – 12,047 signatures
Amend the immigration bill to allow 3000 lone child refugees to enter the UK - 11,547 signatures
Step in & safely reunite refugee minors in the EU with their families in the UK - 9,586 signatures
20 April 2016
Prayers from the island of Lesbos
On 16 April, Pope Francis was joined by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Ieronymus II at the Port of Lesbos. All three religious leaders prayed for all those in difficult circumstances and for all the men, women and children who have died after leaving their homelands in search of a better life.
Following the prayers, the three religious leaders dropped flowers into the waters off the port of Lesbos to remember the victims.These prayers have now been added to the website http://prayersformigrants.weebly.com/
17 April 2016
Reflection on Visit to Calais, April 15th 2016 - Fr Dominic Howarth
This further installment in the impressive series by Fr Dominic can can be read here.
15 April 2016
Media Release: Seeking Sanctuary asks: Where are the missing children?
For immediate release.
Seeking Sanctuary like many other humanitarian organisations is increasingly concerned about the fate of the potentially hundreds of missing children from the “Jungle” camp in Calais.
Following recent clearances by the French authorities a census by Help Refugees UK shows that 129 children went missing during the recent clearance of the south of the camp, while hundreds more with no family members still remain, some as young as eight,.
Seeking Sanctuary believes that through the coordination of police efforts it is possible to track down at least some of the missing children who are at risk of abuse exploitation and trafficking. We believe that with a greater and better coordinated police effort, particularly around main railway stations, it would be possible to protect the children and bring them to safety.
Spokesperson Ben Bano said 'Police across Europe already have experience in tracking down children who are lost or who have disappeared. We call on the British and French governments to work together in cooperation with European colleagues to protect these vulnerable children. It is the very least that should be expected of a civilised and humane society.'
We also join the Children's Commissioner in asking State authorities to act with urgency to determine which of the children are eligible to come to join relatives in the UK, to ensure their safety and to process their applications without delay.
4 April 2016
Listen to Phil Kerton speaking about the situation in Northern France on BBC Radio Kent's "Sunday Breakfast" programme yesterday. Read our April update.
And if you plan to go to Calais to help, please note what is written in that update about the risk of developing another mountain of goods occupying space and requiring valuable time to sort. It is important to take only the items listed by L'Auberge des Migrants at www.calaidipedia.co.uk/site/calaisaid/current-needs as current needs, and by Care4Calais at http://care4calais.org/donate-essentials/ - and to sort, pack and label donations as they request. Volunteers to sort goods in the warehouses are in demand! And there are other teams in Calais dealing with many other demands, for example education, healthcare, transport and counselling.
NEWS ARCHIVE: A link to our archive can be found below the next set of photos. Please do browse to find out something about how the Calais situation has developed.
(Click above to open link)
9 March: 'Eight miles: the distance between abject squalor and fresh dignity'
Reflections on Calais/Dunkirk by a group from Baslidon, March 9 2016
7 March: PRESS RELEASE- Seeking Sanctuary says 'Bring the children to sanctuary and safety'
4 March: URGENT MESSAGE FROM CALAIS WAREHOUSES - PLEASE DO NOT STOP BRINGING AID!! There is a crisis of aid supplies in Calais right now: because of the demolition of the "Jungle" people assume Calais is "over" and they've stopped bringing donations, BUT there are thousands of people still there and needing help!
1 March: Update. It is deeply saddening that we have to report on the tragic events in Calais as they have unfolded in recent in days and try to forecast what comes next.
27 February: Parishioners from Aylesham in Kent report on a recent visit to the Calais "jungle" with Fr Petros, a Vincentian priest from Ethiopia, who is based in Dover and ministering to Eritrean and Ethiopean exiles in Calais
23 February. Ben Bano: Judge's visit to Calais "a ray of hope" ahead of clearance decision - by Alex Williams for Premier Christian Radio
It is hoped a judge's visit to "the Jungle" camp in Calais offers "a ray of hope" that plans to clear part of the site will be blocked.
19 February. For those following Fr Dominic Howarth's thoughtful accounts of Calais visits by people from Basildon, here is a link to the story of their latest journey: http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=29467
16 February: PRESS RELEASE. Seeking Sanctuary says “No” to enforced expulsions in Calais.
In an inhumane and clumsy measure, taking place in the bleakest of winter weather, French authorities are about to clear a large area of the Calais “Jungle” camp.
7 February: Comment
Phil Kerton in BBC Radio Kent discussion on Destruction of Calais Church and Mosque.
2 February: Update
Our thanks to all of you (and your friends) who contributed so generously to our emergency appeal. The £5000 requested was raised within ten days. The group from Tunbridge Wells was able to purchase much needed supplies, and took a large quantity of goods on their mission of 27 January. We have a report from Alice, who coordinates the group. We await the coming months with some uncertainty - the authorities seem determined to reduce the numbers in Calais – perhaps even closing most of the camp by Spring, adding to the uncertainty of all those who have no alternative but to live there. Official action is usually unexpected and often brutal in its execution.
1 February: Seeking Sanctuary denounces the destruction of places of worship in the Calais "Jungle".
We were appalled to learn of the destruction today of a mosque as well as an evangelical Church in the jungle at Calais in spite of assurances given earlier not to disturb places of worship, ... 'The destruction of these places of worship is at odds with the fundamental human right to worship freely according to the beliefs and principles of all .... We support all the efforts of our partner agencies to challenge this wanton act of destruction.
23 January: PRESS RELEASE: Seeking Sanctuary says 'Let the children in...'
Following the recent court case in Boulogne when a British citizen was acquitted after an attempt to smuggle a 4 year old girl through border controls, Seeking Sanctuary is urging a humanitarian response to the problem of young children being left to fend for themselves in the 'jungles' in and near Calais. We support the campaign and ask all the Faith Communities and other organisations with which we are in touch to lobby to allow into Britain up to three thousand vulnerable minors currently in Europe .....
19 January: Refugees in northern France - recent developments
A link to an article by Phil Kerton setting out some of the facts behind reports in recent weeks - find out for yourself how much is totally false and how much is partly true!
19 January - Christian charity: clearing at Calais camp is preposterous (Premier Christian Radio)
Seeking Sanctuary says trying to relocate migrants from areas of the camp nicknamed 'The Jungle' during the freezing winter weather is bad timing and there are not enough shipping containers to accommodate those being evicted.
11 January: Emergency Appeal for funds.
Seeking Sanctuary is launches an emergency appeal for funds to relieve the immediate human suffering following the recent heavy rain and high winds in Northern France.
19 January. Greetings in Solidarity.
Supportive Cards can be sent to the exiles in the Calais camp. An Exile, chez Secours Catholique, 434 route de Saint Omer, 62100 CALAIS, FRANCE.
6 January. MEDIA RELEASE - PROVISION OF SHELTER IN NORTHERN FRANCE.
As the current wet and windy weather continues to hit South East England and Northern France, we remain mindful of the thousands of migrants living in squalid conditions so near to our doorstep. Tents and other shacks rapidly become waterlogged and basic possessions are often blown away, ruined and cannot be replaced.
5 January. Seeking Sanctuary writes: 2015 has passed by with no sign of significant improvements to the situation in Calais. There has been an amazing increase in the number residing near the town. Conditions were dire for a “Day of Solidarity” on 19 September and the UN Secretary General's Special Representative for Migration's visit on 20 September. Pollution and endemic diseases were already noted.
12th December - Link to an account of the fourth visit by the Tunbridge Wells group.
9th December - Link to an an eloquent report of a further Calais visit by Basildon people, here.
26th November - Link to YouTube video of 8th visit to Calais by Emmaus, Care4Calais & YWAM Harpenden. (By way of a change from written contributions supported by still photos).
22nd November - Links to accounts of well-planned Calais visits by Fr Dominic Howarth and his team from Basildon.
11th November - Christian refugee worker [Ben Bano] on EU crisis meeting: "The solution has to be found at source" - Premier Christian Radio.
8th November - A link to a vivid and well written diary entry by one of the many foreign volunteers who are spending time in Calais - link here.
6th November - An account of one of several visits to Calais made by a group from Tunbridge Wells
1st November - BBC Radio Kent's "Sunday Breakfast" programme included two items about the Dunkirk camp which can be heard here and here, Also, Canon Caroline Pinchbeck talked [here] about an acclaimed 2008 French film, "Welcome", about the story of a migrant learning to swim in order to escape Calais.
27th October - The news from the 'jungle' in Calais continues to be troubling. Recent reports confirm that the numbers in Calais have swelled to between 5000 and 6000 people and continue to grow.
20th October - Listen here to Phil Kerton interviewed by BBC Radio Kent's "Breakfast" programme.
5th October - And so the scandal of the Calais jungle continues. The latest report from Birmingham University reveals not just the squalor but the health and other risks resulting from the shameful conditions
5th October - Phil Kerton contributes to BBC Radio Kent's "Sunday Breakfast" programme - Listen here.
19th September - Barbara Kentish provides an account of the Day of Solidarity wth Refugees in Calais.
21st September - Peter Sutherland, the UN Secretary General's Special Representative for Migration, visited Calais and was horrified by the squalor and chaos. Phil Kerton was among those who accompanied Peter and you his detailed report is here to download. Subsequently Peter has spoken out in public about the squalor and has called for a centre to process asylum claims to be set up in France, funded jointly by the UK and French governments.
6th September - Seeking Sanctuary says: 'These are our sisters and brothers'... .
9th August - Seeking Sanctuary says: '3000 migrants = 3000 people like you and me'
31st July - 'Seeking Sanctuary' is becoming increasingly concerned, as are other organisations, about migrants in Calais being 'demonised' as a result of the traffic chaos and delays in Kent.
6th July - Article for "The Pilgrim" (Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Southwark)
***** PETITIONS: A list of relevant items is available here. *****
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Ben Bano writes:
We would like to thank the numerous groups, faith communities and individuals who have been in touch with us.The messages of support we have received help us to keep our activities going in the face of rhetoric which describes migrants as a 'swarm' and as 'marauders'.
(Those wishing to pray for the migrants and their plight will find resources here.)
- ABOVE: Delivery of goods to aid warehouse in Calais (January 2016)
BELOW: Terrible injuries are sustained as migrants tackle the security fences paid for by the UK government. This 18 year old girl's hands will need specialist treatment after her unsuccessful attempt.
But there are stories of optimism and hope in the 'jungle'...
'I'm not going to let myself go downhill'
A typical scene in the jungle - many 'shacks' are now durable thanks to the efforts of aid agencies
ABOVE: A very special house for the jungle !
BELOW: Volunteers deliver a horsebox full of goods to a Calais warehouse (January 2016).
Planning permission has been sought...
We even have our own front door !
'Our Church is the priority for us'...
ABOVE: A full programme in the school of 'Chemin des Dunes'
BELOW: Visitors are welcome (January 2016).
BELOW: Visitors are welcome (January 2016).
'We must all learn to live together like brothers - otherwise we will die together like idiots'
ABOVE: 'Here we're vaccinating against racism'
BELOW: Volunteers load up with donations in the UK (January 2016).
BELOW: Volunteers load up with donations in the UK (January 2016).
A quiet moment away from the bustle as Eritrean women teach the bible to their children in the Church (Independent Catholic News)