un-seizing the brakes

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.

Photo 26-08-2016, 10 42 58

The 4 Baptists in the delegation (right to left): Revds Penny Marsh, Me, Phil Warburton and Dan Pratt

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.


there's nothing happening inside the red line

when you try to raise your eyebrows after Botox!

A few years ago I had a series of Botox injections in my forehead. It was not for cosmetic purposes, but was to try to alleviate the pain I was experiencing from a chronic migraine headache. Sadly it did not work, but it made a significant difference to the lines on my forehead (they disappeared) and meant I could not raise my eyebrows or frown until the effects wore off (after a few weeks).

It seems to me that some Botox has been applied to some more headlines this week.

The headline yesterday was that Britain is to take 20,000 refugees.


But the Botox of spin was injected to the refugee crisis so that eyebrows were not raised and frowns could not be made. The headline did not show that this was spread over the next five years, and that equates to 76 per week. And it neglected to mention that by the end of August 2014, the UN estimated 6.5 million people had been displaced in Syria, while more than 3 million refugees had fled to countries such as Lebanon (1.14 million), Jordan (608,000) and Turkey (815,000). That was last year! And that’s just Syria.


The UK will accept up to 20,000 people from camps surrounding Syria over the next five years, with priority given to vulnerable children.


But that’s up to 20,000. And the need is urgent now, these people can’t wait five years!


Priority is to be given to vulnerable children.


But, and here’s perhaps the place where the Botox of spin has really frozen the truth, they will only have the right to stay for five years and Lord Ashdown says that when these vulnerable and displaced children reach the age of 18 the Government says they will be deported!

Really?! That surely can’t be true can it? So far I have not heard anyone from the Government denying it…

This is described as humanitarian aid – it’s a compassionate response to a global crisis. And surely it’s better than nothing, isn’t it? We can’t help everyone. We have a duty to protect the most vulnerable. We want to stop the flow of people across Europe at source by taking people from the refugee camps. We want to stop the people traffickers who are profiting from these vulnerable people and putting their lives at risk.

I understand those points of view, but I want to draw a couple of contrasts between that approach and a couple of others:

Contrast that attitude with the people of Munich applauding and cheering as the weary refugees arrived there at the weekend.

The British announcement yesterday may be better than nothing, but in my view it’s not much better. The Botox of spin has been applied so that bad headlines can be erased, eyebrows won’t be raised and frowns will disappear. We can pat ourselves on the back for making a difference.

But Jesus had a different view of things (Matthew 25, slightly altered):

35 “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me, I was in [a refugee camp] and you came to visit me.”

37 ‘Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you ill or in [a refugee camp] and go to visit you?”

40 ‘The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

There’s no time limit or numerical limit there…

Be blessed, be a blessing