Bishop expresses concern for the situation at the UK border

25 October 2019

 

Bishop William Nolan of Galloway, President of the Catholic Church’s Justice and Peace Commission, has called on the UK Government to make “safe and legal routes” available for refugees attempting to come to the UK. Bishop Nolan expressed his concerns ahead of the three-year anniversary of the refugee camp known as ‘the jungle’ in Calais being demolished, he said:

 

“Three years ago, the French and UK governments demolished the refugee camp known as ‘the jungle’. Many thousands of people were dispersed across France, and the infrastructure of support and solidarity provided by so many volunteers was destroyed. Three years on, the situation in Calais, Dunkirk and other areas is more desperate than ever. The policies of attrition - wearing down refugees through harsh treatment, including eviction from places of shelter; confiscation of possessions; assault and use of pepper spray - are forcing already vulnerable people to increasingly desperate measures, pushing them into the arms of people smugglers and human traffickers.”

 

Bishop Nolan added;

 

When I visited Calais in 2017, just over one year after the jungle had been demolished, I witnessed the situation of many young refugees sleeping rough. The statement we issued at the time called on the authorities ‘to recognise that these are our fellow human beings, regardless of their [immigration] status, and that their intrinsic dignity must be upheld.’ Now, three years since the jungle was destroyed, and with no progress being made, I once again join the calls made on our government that safe and legal routes must be established, and that an infrastructure which allows for dignified living for those in Calais must be a priority”.

 

Bishop Nolan’s remarks come after Amnesty International has reported on the “unprecedented restrictions, including threats and violence, denunciation in public discourse, and criminalization” being faced by volunteers and staff in northern France. Their report ‘Targeting Solidarity’ documents the increasingly hostile tactics being used against volunteers from a range of organisations in France who are filling the gap left by the state for providing food, clothing and medical care. Amnesty International makes the point that the ‘work of human rights defenders in the area is inextricably linked to the treatment of people on the move. It is therefore paramount to end the human rights violations faced by this group’ and to repeat the calls made by NGOs and Bishop Nolan which requires that France ensures its asylum and reception system is fit for purpose and that the UK increases the number of refugees and asylum-seekers it currently accepts by providing safe and legal routes.

 

Following the bishop’s visit in 2017, Justice and Peace Scotland has continued to highlight the situation in Calais.  In early 2019 as part of a project called ‘Encounter: Calais’, two groups of volunteers travelled down to Calais with Care4Calais, one of the volunteer aid organisations, and met the community at Maria Skobtsova Catholic Worker House.

 

As part of highlighting the anniversary of the jungle’s demolition and the ongoing situation, Justice and Peace Scotland have compiled a list of resources, bringing together news articles, reports, and videos which capture some of the history and the issues around the jungle in recent years.

 

The resource sheet is available on Justice and Peace Scotland’s website www.justiceandpeacescotland.org.uk

 

ENDS

 

Note to Editors:

 

For further information, contact: Danny Sweeney, Co-ordinator, Justice & Peace Scotland on 07891 579831

 

Peter Kearney 

Director 

Catholic Media Office 

5 St. Vincent Place 

Glasgow 

G1 2DH 

Tel:    0141 221 1168

Mob:  07968 122291

ISDN: 0141 204 4956 

pk@scmo.org 

www.scmo.org

 

 

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