On Tuesday 18 October we held a vigil calling for the UK to fulfil its pledge to welcome thousands of unaccompanied refugee children to the UK, especially from Calais and for France to insure protection of the children in the Calais camp. We collected about 80 signatures on letters to the Home Secretary Amber Rudd and to the French Minister of the Interior and and delivered these to the Scotland Office and the French Consul the following day.
We welcome the subsequent arrival of the first Calais children including those who are entitled to asylum here who have family in the UK and those vulnerable children without family here admitted in keeping with the Dubs amendment.
But we continue to call on the UK to honour its pledge to take in thousands of such children from across Europe and on France not to proceed with demolition of the Calais camp until all the children there have been provided with safe decent shelter.
After welcoming the fact that a few of these children have at last been brought to the UK the letter to Amber Rudd went on: “We are keenly aware that hundreds of others are being left behind. These children have already undergone unimaginable hardships in fleeing mostly from war as well as natural disasters, and extreme poverty.”
Aware that 129 children went missing from Calais when the French government demolished sections of the camp earlier this month, that at least three children have died attempting to enter the UK and that the children are caught in a struggle between France and the UK over responsibility for this crisis we urged the Home Secretary to press Interior Minister Cazeneuve to delay demolition until all of the more than 1,100 unaccompanied refugee children in Calais have been appropriately accommodated.
In writing to the Interior Minister of France we urged him to insure that all children remaining in the camp are provided with appropriate shelter and that appropriate accommodation is found for all the refugees and migrants currently living there before action is taken to demolish the camp.
We stressed that we were “particularly concerned that these children who are among the most vulnerable in the camp not be further traumatised by the imminent demolition.”
Finally we appealed to the Ministers’ “sense of humanity” saying “Please open your heart to these most vulnerable people who only seek shelter and a place to live in peace and dignity.”
Our banner will be hung on the railings of St Johns Church on Princes St – where it will be highly visible – for the next couple of weeks as a reminder to Edinburgh of the ongoing crisis of these refugee children.
Our vigil for Calais unaccompanied refugee children was reported in Common Space this week.
The vigil follows a meeting we organised as part of the Edinburgh World Justice Festival with 6 speakers including refugees and activists from local organisations doing refugee support. A full report on that meeting can be found here.
The Peace and Justice Centre’s briefing on “Towards Adressing the Needs of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children” was sent to Theresa May as Home Secretary and relevant MPs, MSPs, civil servants and civil society actors and is available here.
Readers can write to Home Secretary Amber Rudd MP and French Interior Minister Bernad Cazeneuve using the model letters and contact details here.