Marking World Day of Prayer for Migrants and Refugees, Calais aid charity Seeking Sanctuary has appealed for an end to the “cruel dilemma” migrants face in the French port city as it reiterated calls for safe and legal ways to claim asylum in the UK.
The charity has voiced its concern that while the UK Government insists that France is a safe country in which to claim asylum, many applicants are suffering as they receive no support until their claims start to be processed.
Additionally, Seeking Sanctuary cited worrying reports that asylum seekers returned from the UK to France are being issued with instructions to leave the country rather than seeing proper inspection of their claims.
The situation, already desperate, is also made worse by the new restrictions from the French authorities on free distributions of food and other basic supplies while they are waiting in Calais.
Ben Bano, co-director of Seeking Sanctuary, told The Catholic Universe: “Migrants in Calais are in a double bind. There is no incentive to claim asylum in France as they will be left destitute and subject to police harassment during the lengthy wait while their application is processed, even though the UK insists that France is a safe country.”
Seeking Sanctuary said it’s no wonder that the migrants turn to traffickers and dangerous crossings in the Channel as their only hope of finding respect, a decent life and hope for the future.
The charity has reiterated calls for safe and legal ways to claim asylum in the UK, saying this is the only answer to put an end to this humanitarian disaster and to return asylum seekers to France only when there are assurances that their claims will be properly processed.
Seeking Sanctuary recently organised a gathering at Dover on Tuesday 15th September, involving Bishop Paul McAleenan, the lead Bishop for Migrants and Refugees for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW), charity workers and volunteers working on behalf of refugees advocating for their cause.
Hosted by Fr Jeff Cridland, the gathering also included local faith and community leaders, representatives from the Anglican Diocese of Canterbury, the Kent Refugee Action Network and Samphire, an organisation supporting refugees in Kent.
Bishop McAleenan said it had been “edifying” to meet those who “have thrown in their lot with the refugees and are willing to support them, speak on their behalf and advocate for their cause”.
“I met so many people who spoke movingly about their work and their intention to continue to spread the message that it’s so necessary for us to support migrants and refugees. Through their work, meeting with refugees, they have discovered the truth – that they are God’s children. We are all brothers and sisters in Jesus and we support them.”
The bishop offered prayers “for volunteers who work for refugees here in the Dover area and in northern France, and for those who go to the rescue of those in danger”.
He also prayed for policy-makers and opinion-formers, that they may “provide a system whereby no-one needs to risk their lives in the quest for safety and freedom”.
“This prayer we make through Christ Our Lord who stretched out His hand to Peter on the Sea of Galilee and gives us the will to do likewise on the English coast,” he added, reminding people that Sunday 27th September marks World Day of Prayer for Migrants and Refugees.
Deb Barry, of Care4Humanity, said the key messages from the day included the need to remember that each refugee is an individual, with their own identity and their own unique story.
Another key point is the instrumental role young people can play in humanitarian work and advocacy.
‘They are our future leaders and can be mobilised now to help refugees in so many ways and be a real example of peace and acceptance,” she wrote on the Care4Humanity Facebook page.
She also pointed out that ‘refugee work continues to be a global issue and we must work across countries, faiths, governments, civil society and ethnicity’.
‘Only as we come together in peace and a desire to truly help each other, can we find lasting solutions,’ she wrote.
At the conclusion of the meetings, group went to Dover promenade where they met with a BBC Songs Of Praise crew.
‘We stood by the memorials to those who had lost their lives while making that crossing from France to the UK in order to seek sanctuary. The bishop then said a prayer at the memorial and reminded all of us of the importance of each of these people’s lives,’ Ms Barry wrote. ‘He prayed that people would be able to understand and assist those who have journeyed for a new and better life. He also prayed for all those who help, the policy makers and the opinion formers.
‘It was lovely to be able to stand together today, technology has allowed us to still operate during this time, but seeing so many people social distancing and standing in a circle today was a great strength.
‘We are excited at Care4Humanity to continue to work with so many different groups of people and stand together in peace to bring change.’
The material filmed in Dover is scheduled to be aired on Songs Of Praise on Sunday 11thOctober 2020.
Picture: Bishop Paul McAleenan in Dover. (Mazur/cbcew.org.uk).