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Bishops call for action on Calais young migrants

By Ann Marie Foley - 24 January, 2018

The Government and the Civil Service must be held to account, especially in applying the Dublin III Regulations which will allow children to be reunited with their families in the UK.

Church built by inhabitants of The Jungle, Calais

Bishops in England and Scotland have welcomed a treaty which will speed up the process for migrants wishing to travel from France to the UK, but they are unhappy that there is no increase in the number of unaccompanied minors that will be welcome.

“Where currently migrants are forced to wait up to six months, adults will now be able to transfer within one month and children within 25 days,” stated Bishop Paul McAleenan, the Lead Bishop for Asylum and Migration for England and Wales and Bishop William Nolan, President of Justice and Peace Scotland, in a joint statement.

In the statement they welcomed the positive aspects of the Sandhurst Treaty which will come into force on 1st February. This agreement, the first treaty on the Calais border in 15 years, was agreed on 18th January by Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron.

It involves new border security measures and the UK paying an extra £44.5 million for fencing, CCTV and detection technology in Calais and other Channel ports. This is on top of more than £100 million already paid by Britain.

Bishop William Nolan

It involves new border security measures and the UK paying an extra £44.5 million for fencing, CCTV and detection technology in Calais and other Channel ports. This is on top of more than £100 million already paid by Britain.

The Bishops also welcomed the UK’s commitment to support France in its provision of accommodation to those previously in the Dunkirk and Calais areas, and to greater co-operation in the fight against organised crime, including those responsible for human trafficking.

“Improving the legal means by which migrants can access the UK will in itself reduce the amount of criminal activity,” they said.  They cautioned that the extra £44.5 million of funding and a proposed tightening-up of border security must not result in: “further violence and brutality against young migrants whose lives are already marked by destitution and suffering.”

They stated that the Government and the Civil Service must be held to account, especially in applying the Dublin III Regulations which will allow children to be reunited with their families in the UK.

“This opportunity to bring greater humanity and compassion to the migration system must be grasped by the Government,” they said. The bishops welcomed the early introduction of measures in January 2018 that offer unaccompanied refugee children in Europe safe passage to Britain. However, they expressed regret that there is no increase in the number of unaccompanied minors that will be welcomed.

Bishop Paul McAleenan

“We call on the Government to reconsider this position. The innate God-given dignity of all human life, especially that of innocent children, must not be ignored,” they stated.

Just before Christmas, the same bishops had called on the UK government to help Calais migrants. They noted that it was over a year since the dismantling of ‘the jungle’, a makeshift camp set up by migrants in Calais. They highlighted the fact that while the camp had disappeared from the headlines, many young migrants remain.

These young people are forced to sleep rough even in the middle of Winter. The bishops wrote that the young people have been targeted by the authorities and police tactics include interrupting sleep and confiscating tents and sleeping bags.

The Bishops continued, “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.”

They praised the work of Secour Catholique, and other aid associations, and their volunteers who are with these young people and providing for the basics such as food and clothing.

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