Catholic Delegation visits Calais

From 27 – 30 November a delegation from Justice and Peace Scotland were guests of the Maria Skobtsova Catholic Worker House in Calais, France.

Bishop William Nolan (President, and Bishop of Galloway) and Danny Sweeney (Social Justice Co-ordinator) went to witness first-hand the situation on the ground, over a year after the migrant camp, known as “the jungle” was dismantled, and the situation disappeared from the public consciousness of many.

They were joined on Thursday 29 November by Bishop Paul McAleenan (Lead Bishop for Asylum and Migration, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales) and Tom Burke (CBCEW International Affairs Department).

Together the Bishops joined staff from Secour Catholique in Calais meeting with young migrants who are sleeping rough, and learning about the challenges since ‘the jungle’ was demolished.  They have issued the following statement:

Over a year since the dismantling of “the jungle”, the situation in Calais may have disappeared from public consciousness and headlines, however, whilst the camp has closed young migrants remain.

Their situation is now much worse. These young people are forced to sleep rough, which at this time of year as temperatures fall is of great concern. Their presence is discouraged by the authorities; police tactics include interrupting sleep and confiscating tents and sleeping bags. Aid agencies report that the policies of the British government have resulted in young people turning to people smugglers in attempts to reach the UK.

We urge the authorities to recognise that these are our fellow human beings, regardless of their status, and that their intrinsic dignity must be upheld.

Of particular concern are unaccompanied minors whose rights as children must be recognised by both French and UK authorities.
We appreciate the work of Secour Catholique, other aid associations, and their volunteers who are accompanying these young people and providing for the basic needs of food and clothing.
We call upon the UK government;

  •  to embrace the true spirit of the Dubs Amendment, and extend this provision beyond the original timeframe of March 2016;
  •  to streamline the implementation of the Dublin III Regulations; which allow children to be reunited with their families in the UK;
  • to establish facilities that will allow migrants to raise their asylum claims from Europe, creating safe legal channels,

We ask both UK and French governments to develop infrastructures to enable dignified living in Calais.

As the season of Advent begins, we are reminded again that the Holy Family were themselves refugees forced to flee their home seeking sanctuary in a foreign land.

Bishop William Nolan, President, Justice and Peace Scotland, Bishops’ Conference of Scotland
Bishop Paul McAleenan, Lead Bishop for Asylum and Migration, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

Find out more about Maria Skobtsova House including applying for volunteer opportunities by downloading this leaflet.

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