LETTER TO DAVID CAMERON ASKING FOR DELAY TO DEMOLITION OF ‘THE JUNGLE’ TO PROTECT THE #CHILDRENOFCALAIS
Public figures, Help Refugees, Letters Live and Citizens UK today called on David Cameron to save children trapped in Calais ‘jungle’.
An unprecedented coalition of 145 well-known figures from cinema, television, theatre, art, business, sport and literature as well as Help Refugees, Letters Live and Citizens UK today publish an open letter to David Cameron calling for urgent action to save the #childrenofcalais, and invite the public to READ, SIGN AND SHARE here –
A full list of signatories and the text of the letter is below.
Jude Law, Shappi Khorsandi, Idris Elba, Helena Bonham Carter, Richard Branson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Curtis, Stephen Fry, Helena Kennedy, Gary Lineker, Phillip Pullman and Tom Stoppard are among the list of names which represent the best of British talent and the arts coming together to urge the Prime Minister to step in and allow unaccompanied children living in the Jungle to be reunited with their families in the UK.
They say in the letter: “This is a humanitarian crisis that needs to be acknowledged as such and it is imperative that we do everything we can to help these innocent and highly vulnerable refugees, especially the minors, as swiftly as is humanly possible.”
They are seeking to draw attention to the plight of the 291 unaccompanied children in the Jungle who have a legal right to join family in the UK, and are stuck in a dangerous bureaucratic limbo with the imminent demolition of the Jungle on the horizon.
On Monday 22 February, the French authorities are due to demolish the southern part of the ‘Calais Jungle’ which would destroy the temporary homes of over 3,000 people. This section of the camp is predominantly occupied by unaccompanied children and families. A census conducted on Monday by Help Refugees/L’Auberge Des Migrants found 440 children living in this section of the camp, 291 of which are unaccompanied. Public figures are urging David Cameron to intervene to ensure that refugee children are protected.
Citizens UK has identified hundreds of unaccompanied minors in Calais who have valid legal claims to have their asylum applications processed in the UK. The first of these cases was heard in the UK Courts last month; the court ruled that the children should legally be reunited with family in the UK while their asylum cases were processed. Citizens UK have already largely identified, screened and begun to process the minors in question.
The letter is open for the public to sign at: http://www.refugees-welcome.org.uk/childrenofcalais/
Jude Law said: “Last week I visited the camp, and met some of these unaccompanied children who have no choice but to endure the horrific conditions of the Jungle. These are innocent, vulnerable children caught up in red tape with the frightening prospect of the demolition of the Jungle hanging over them. David Cameron and the British Government must urgently work with the French authorities to alleviate this humanitarian crisis.”
Lliana Bird and Josie Naughton of Help Refugees said: “These children have already suffered severe trauma in their home countries and have risked their lives in dangerous sea and land journeys just to reach their families in the UK. Our Government must intervene to expedite the process to reunite them with their loved ones and help bring an end to their suffering and ensure those that remain in France are receiving adequate care. The bulldozing must be prevented until assurances are given that this will happen.”
Simon Cuff at Citizens UK said: “The Jungle should not exist. Clearing it is important work – but as the bulldozers move in the children living there must not be forgotten. Those with rights to be with their families in the Britain should be reunited with them, those without the right to the UK should receive specialist support and care from the French. Not chased off by police in riot gear.”
“We’re hugely grateful to all the public figures who’ve stood up and stepped out to help protect these refugee children. There is no time to lose to reunite them with their loved ones before the demolitions begin in earnest. Help Refugees UK are doing an amazing humanitarian job on the ground, we’re working to help people access their legal rights – but this should not be falling to charitable organisations in the first place. Governments need to get in there, bring order to the chaos and create safe legal routes to protect people.”
Liz Clegg, of the unofficial women and children’s centre said: “We are horrified that the French Government have chosen to take this action and clear the southern part of the jungle in Calais, where the majority of families and children are presently living. This includes hundreds of unaccompanied children as young as 10. The UN, Europe and France itself have clear guidelines with regards to the treatment of minors. We have been in the jungle for six months working with women and children, and not a single representative of the government or main aid agencies have approached us to start identifying who these children are. If the eviction takes place it is likely we will lose contact with many of these children and they will be subjected to further suffering and great danger. We beg the government to hold off with this eviction until appropriate child protection measures are put in place.”
Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson, Artistic Directors of The Good Chance Theatre, said: “No one deserves to live in the jungle, least of all the hundreds of unaccompanied children. Many of them rely on the theatre and other community spaces to make this situation bearable. We must all work together to ensure proper provision is made for them in the event of a large scale eviction.”
HERE IS THE LETTER:
The Prime Minister
10 Downing Street,
18th February, 2016
Dear David Cameron,
RE: A call on The British Government to intervene as a matter of urgency in the refugee crisis in Calais and Dunkirk.
The recent announcement by the Calais prefecture to raze the Southern part of the “Jungle” refugee camp in Calais is an act that if allowed to happen, will destroy the temporary homes of over 3000 people including 443 children. Many of these people are amongst the most vulnerable in the camps as this is where the majority of families and unaccompanied minors currently live.
Such an enforced move would uproot again those who have already had to abandon their homes due to war and persecution. The eviction also threatens vital community facilities built and run by the residents and volunteers including a Women and Children’s Centre, the Youth Centre, three mosques, one Orthodox church, three classrooms, the camp’s only library, The Good Chance Theatre, the Legal Centre, the Vaccination Centre and three crucial distribution centres for aid and food. These spaces offer much-needed respite and comfort for all those living in the intensely difficult conditions within the camp.
We, the undersigned, a number of whom have seen first-hand the refugee camps in the last few days, urge the British government to do three things:
1) To create an expedited process for the implementation of Dublin III’s family reunion provisions so that all minors who are currently residing in the camps in Calais and Dunkirk with family connections in the UK are able to reunite with their loved ones with immediate effect.
2) To ensure that those minors who have no legal right to come to the UK are protected and supported within France and that the French child protection process is also expedited to afford them the protection they are entitled to.
3) To persuade the French authorities that the decision to destroy further parts of the camp in Calais is postponed until all the minors currently residing there are either given child protection within the French system or enabled to reunite with their loved ones in Britain.
We believe the above actions are the absolute minimum that the British government should be taking to alleviate the suffering of the refugees in Calais, and must be made an urgent priority. The British charitable organisations, Help Refugees and Citizens UK, have already largely identified, screened and begun to process the minors in question. This is a humanitarian crisis that needs to be acknowledged as such and it is imperative that we do everything we can to help these innocent and highly vulnerable refugees, especially the minors, as swiftly as is humanly possible.
Letters Live, Help Refugees, Citizens UK, The Good Chance Theatre, and the following signatories –
Sir Christopher Bland
Claire Van Kampen
Frank Cottrell Boyce
Helena Bonham Carter
Helena Kennedy QC
Jamie CattoJames Rhodes
Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg
Kirkland Newman Smulders
Dame Kristin Scott Thomas
Philippe Sands QC
Sir Richard Eyre
Russell T Davies
Sir Tom Stoppard
Featured image: Presenting the petition in Westminster by Greg Williams