Refuge for refugees

van.jpgAfter the 2015 election I made two trips transporting aid to refugees marooned in Calais. To be honest, I drifted into it having been asked by a friend to borrow the big yellow van. We collected tinned food and sleeping bags that had been donated at Daily Bread on King’s Hedges Road. I set off in late September with a friend and another volunteer, not really knowing what to expect.

I saw things that day that I will never forget. It was all the more shocking that it was happening in Calais, a town I’d travelled through many times. I have found it hard to describe the events of that day. There were highs, talking with refugees and volunteers and witnessing a refugee returning a dropped UK passport that one of our group dropped 100m behind on a track. There were lows, witnessing the desperation of the refugees and walking through shanties in a situation with implicit and explicit violence. And I saw young children, though I have no idea if they were alone or not.

My second trip was in late November, the day after a storm. The scene was one of total desolation.

I almost made a third trip in Spring 2016, waved off from Cambridge by Dan Zeichner. We drove from Cambridge, assembled in Whitehall and drove in convoy to Dover, where we were refused entry by the French authorities!

In April 2016 Lord Dubs sponsored an amendment to the Immigration Act 2016 to offer unaccompanied refugee children safe passage to Britain amidst the European migrant crisis. Alf Dubs was born in Prague, then in Czechoslovakia. Dubs was one of 669 Czech-resident, mainly Jewish, children saved from the Nazis on the Kindertransport. When the Dubs amendment came before the House of Commons I wrote to Lucy Frazer. I remembered her heritage as someone whose great grandparents were given sanctuary in the UK when they fled from persecution in eastern Europe. I hoped that she would remember our country’s generosity to her forebears and vote to protect unaccompanied children by welcoming them to the UK. On 25 April Lucy Frazer voted to oppose the Dubs amendment.

At least 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees have disappeared after arriving in Europe, according to the EU’s criminal intelligence agency. Many are feared to have fallen into the hands of organised trafficking syndicates. Human-trafficking gangs exploit the children for sex and slavery. And Lucy was content to leave children at the mercy of these monstrous gangs.

In May 2016 the Conservative government accepted a House of Lords amendment that would allow 3000 children into the UK. In February 2017 the same government reneged on the scheme up having given refuge to only 350 children.

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