Imagine that you have an Aston Martin DB5 car – the James Bond Goldfinger one with the ejector seat. (I enjoy imagining that). It looks great, it sounds great, it feels great. But there is a problem: the brakes are virtually seized and the car will hardly move. Wouldn’t you get the brakes sorted?
In the ‘Jungle’ refugee camp in Calais (22 miles from UK) there are 387 unaccompanied children who are legally entitled to come to the UK. Under the Dublin Agreement on Refugees unaccompanied refugee children who have relatives living in the UK are entitled to be brought to the UK to have their Asylum application assessed here. Under the ‘Dubs Amendment’ to the Immigration Act 2016 unaccompanied children who were in Europe prior to 20th March 2016 are to be allowed into the UK.
It looks great, it sounds great, it feels great. But there is a problem. The brakes are virtually seized and the car will hardly move. Until recently hardly any were brought across. Now 4 a week are being brought across- at that rate it will take almost 2 years for all of these young people (who have the right to be here) to get here! While they are waiting these children are at the mercy of traffickers and in a very vulnerable situation. There is no child protection for them: if the legal route for them to get to the UK does not move the likelihood is that they will try desperate illegal routes.
Because of this I joined a delegation of 20 faith leaders (Christian, Jewish, Muslim) who went to Calais on Friday morning to deliver lists of those 387 eligible children to the French authorities (where the brakes are virtually seized). It was organised by Citizens UK. The aim was first of all to get these names officially received by relevant French authorities; secondly to get the problem highlighted we had Radio 4 journalist Trevor Barnes with us and I believe it will also be in a national newspaper. The news was embargoed until today (hence the bloggage today) but you can listen to the item here on the BBC Sunday programme podcast. (It’s about 25 minutes in). Our purpose was to highlight that these children exist so that the authorities could not deny the problem.
The official that my part of the delegation visited did not recognise that the system’s brakes were seized. He would not admit that there was a problem. He did receive the letter and list we wanted to give him and said he would look at them. He also tried hard to say that it was not his problem and that he could not change policy. He did admit that there were people working for him who were working on this problem but they were in Paris (allegedly). In my view, as a Civil Servant, he could not publicly say that there was a problem because then he would have to do something about it. It was evident that the brakes were not going to receive much attention there.
Some of the delegations did receive more positive responses and the list has now been officially received. There is a multi-disciplinary meeting in Calais next week and we hope that they will have to do something about this. I am sure that the British authorities can do a lot more to work on releasing the brakes for these young people who have a legal entitlement to be here.
If you are a person who prays please will you pray for the success of this campaign? If you are a person of action please will you consider putting pressure on your MP and the Government to do something about this?
Let’s work together to un-seize the brakes and get this great looking, great sounding, great feeling car moving.
Be blessed, be a blessing.