Ex-Calais ‘jungle’ refugees welcomed in London


Supporters arrive in Kings Cross, London, England to welcome four Syrian refugees arriving from Calais

From the Bailiwick Express in Jersey, Channel islands today:

Syrian refugees reunited with families in London after landmark legal case

9 hours ago

Four Syrian refugees who won a landmark legal case to come to Britain from “The Jungle” in Calais have been reunited with their families in London.

Relatives, some carrying babies and young children, smiled as they were let through to greet their loved ones for the first time in months behind closed doors at King’s Cross station.

Around 100 people, many holding home-made banners or balloons with the words “refugees welcome” scrawled on them, descended on the station to welcome the arrivals.

The refugees – three teenagers and a 26-year-old man with severe mental health issues – travelled to the UK after a British court ruled on Wednesday that they should be immediately brought across the Channel from the makeshift refugee camp in northern France.

Before they arrived, the brother of one of the refugees told the Press Association he could not wait to be reunited with his younger sibling, who he has not seen for nearly two years.

Ahmed, who is not using his real name in order to protect his brother’s identity, said: “The first thing I’m going to do is hug him and not let him go.

“He is the youngest in my family and I haven’t seen him in a long time.

“It is hard to describe how happy I felt when I heard the court’s ruling yesterday. It was really, really amazing. It was everything I was waiting for.”

Their arrival follows a pioneering legal case in which lawyers used human rights legislation to argue the four refugees should be immediately brought to Britain and their asylum claims processed here – effectively bypassing the French authorities.

They argued that conditions in the sprawling camp were “intolerable” and that bureaucratic delays in France meant their cases should be handed over to the UK, where they all have relatives legally living.

Ahmed said his brother, who has seen other refugees die trying to make the perilous journey from Calais to Britain, was so bowled over by the court’s decision he was in disbelief.

He said: “He was in huge disbelief. He could not believe it was actually going to happen.

“A lot of people in Calais said ‘this is not going to work’. He just felt like he was in a dream. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He is in shock – but in a good way.”

After enduring years of fighting and bombs, Ahmed, 26, fled his hometown of Daraa in 2014 and travelled across Europe to Britain.

He hid in the back of a freezing cold lorry carrying tomatoes to make the final leg of the journey from Calais to Dover.

He left his brother with his parents, but as the fighting intensified his brother also decided to make the dangerous journey across Europe and to be reunited with his brother in Britain.

Arriving first in Turkey and then crossing through European countries he did not even know the name of, his brother eventually ended up in Calais last October.

But conditions at “The Jungle” were so bad he considered turning back to Syria.

Ahmed, who now lives in London with his wife, two year-old daughter and newborn son, was sporadically in touch with his brother by phone.

He told the Press Association: “There were times when he would say ‘I want to go back to Syria’.

“My brother didn’t imagine he would be living in such conditions in a European country. He was shocked.

“He thought he would find safety.

“That was how desperate he got, it was so unbearable in Calais. But I told him to be patient.”

Ahmed, who was a driver in Syria, said he is grateful to be in Britain and ecstatic his brother will be reunited with him here.

He said his brother hopes to return to the studies which the war in Syria so brutally interrupted.

Ahmed said: “He wants to be a lawyer so he can help people like the way people helped him.”

Oona Chaplin, who stars in Game Of Thrones and is Charlie Chaplin’s granddaughter, has been to Calais several times and thrown her support behind the campaign to bring the Syrians to Britain.

She said: “My heart swells at the thought of these three families coming together again after all they have been through.

“These kids are now our precious teachers, we must all learn with them the art of compassion, kindness and forgiveness, so that we can heal these wounds together.

“May all children everywhere in the world feel the spark of hope that has been ignited with this reunion.”

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Young Syria refugees given warm welcome

Friday 22nd January 2016

THREE children and a teenager from Syria whom a court ordered be brought to Britain from Calais’s refugee camp arrived last night in London to a welcome rally from supporters.

Refugees Welcome campaigners assembled on Kings Cross Square in the late afternoon to cheer on the boys and the 19-year-old man.

“The current situation, in which refugees are relying on the help of thousands of volunteers from the UK, is intolerable,” London2Calais spokesman Syed Bokhari told the Star.

“By refusing to offer a proper procedure to apply for asylum in the UK, the British government is directly responsible for the refugee crisis in Calais and the deaths of people like 15-year-old Masud, who died just last week.

“Masud was on our list of contacts and would have had the right to apply for asylum in the UK.

“It is time to hold the government accountable for its human rights violations.”

Britain ‘poised to open door to thousands of migrant children’. David Cameron considering calls by charities as Jeremy Corbyn, who on Saturday visited refugee camps in Calais and Dunkirk, urges emergency steps: here.

29 thoughts on “Ex-Calais ‘jungle’ refugees welcomed in London

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  2. Saturday 23rd January 2016

    posted by Joana Ramiro in Britain

    A YOUNG Syrian refugee was reunited with his elder brother on Thursday night, after a groundbreaking court ruling ordered that four young people stranded in the Calais refugee camp be brought to Britain.

    The 17-year-old was overcome with emotion as he met his brother in London, who was smuggled into the country in a tomato lorry.

    Refugee Aid campaigners said they were “delighted” with the development but said that the Conservative government still has a lot to answer for and criticised its slow response to the refugee crisis.

    Standing outside St Pancras railway station, the teenager said: “I feel so thankful because I would never have imagined I would be reunited with my brother.

    “I thank every person who was part of this process — they have saved lives. They have saved people from death. I thank Britain as a whole.”

    He described the conditions in Calais’s refugee camp — nicknamed the Jungle — as “intolerable” and “not fit for humans.”

    The young man added that his “main hope and aspiration” was achieved by being reunited with his brother 18 months after they last saw each other in their hometown of Daraa in south-western Syria.

    He now wants to complete his education and go on to become a lawyer, “to help people like lawyers have helped me,” he said.

    Migrant suport group London2Calais, who had been involved in the process of bringing three minors and one disabled adult to Britain, said the government wasn’t doing enough.

    Founder Mona Dohle told the Star: “We are of course delighted that the first four refugees have been able to travel safely into Britain.

    “But now it is time to raise a whole new set of questions: Why has it taken so many months of campaigning to allow a safe passage for children into the UK?

    “How can it be acceptable that this ruling does not apply to refugees like four-year-old Bahar and other children, simply because they don’t qualify as unaccompanied minors?

    “No-one, regardless of where they are from or how old they are should have to live under these conditions,” she said.

    “Let’s stop talking about events like the death of 15-year-old Masud as a tragedy, like this was an unavoidable, natural disaster.

    “This wasn’t a tragedy, this was murder, and the address of his killer is 10 Downing Street. It is time to hold the government accountable.”

    Shadow international development secretary Diane Abbott will join Stand up to Racism campaigners today as they visit the camp in Calais.

    http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-d44f-Syrian-teen-reunited-with-brother-after-landmark-case#.VqP-flLa44A

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  4. Tuesday 26th January 2016

    posted by Lamiat Sabin in Britain

    Council points finger at wrong people over space shortage

    A COUNCIL was urged yesterday to prove its “nonsense” claim that vulnerable British children were being pushed out of a county due to an “influx” of child asylum-seekers.

    Kent County Council (KCC) chiefs claim they have no choice but to place “citizen children” in the care of other councils because of rising numbers of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

    There are 924 children aged under 18 in its care, KCC claims, compared with nearly 630 at the start of last August — a 30 per cent rise in seven months.

    “We have had to place Kent children outside of Kent due to the influx of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, which is not a good position to be in and is not a position we want to be in,” councillor Peter Oakford, KCC’s cabinet member for specialist children’s services, told a committee.

    “It’s actually costing us more financially because we have had to place, I think, six children into residential care either short term or longer term, which is far more expensive than normal foster care.”

    Under the Children Act 1989, it is a council’s legal responsibility to care for under-18s who arrive in their local authority area to seek asylum from abroad.

    But despite these rules, KCC admitted that 22 other local authorities took full responsibility for 56 lone asylum-seeking kids as well as councils also taking care of local children from Kent.

    This means that Tory councillors are using “nameless and faceless immigrants” as scapegoats for funding cuts enforced by their own party, Hope Not Hate researcher Duncan Cahill told the Star.

    Mr Cahill continued: “It’s an incredibly unfortunate excuse by KCC when the real issue with regards to social care would more likely be a result of government cuts as opposed to the influx of people travelling over from Calais.

    “I would ask the council to stand this up — right or wrong — before they spark scaremongering traps.

    “There have been social care problems ever since the Tories were elected in parts of Kent, which is a rather large county and has no shortage of space.Councillors are simply too scared to lay the blame where it belongs.”

    Even KCC leader Paul Carter recently admitted on Sunday Politics that “cuts in public spending has been disproportionate — eventually the elastic gets to its breaking point.”

    http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-a2f0-Kent-scaremongers-over-young-refugees#.Vqcb01La44A

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    • Tuesday 26th January 2016

      posted by Morning Star in Britain

      KENT’S councillors are playing with fire when they blame child refugees for their inability to provide safe homes for local kids.

      As the closest county to the French ports of Calais and Dunkirk, Kent has received more unaccompanied asylum-seeking children than other British counties.

      A 30 per cent rise in looked-after children in seven months is a challenge, and it may well be the case that Kent authorities have had less help than they hoped for from other councils — with one apparently only agreeing to take in unaccompanied children under the age of five.

      There are not many of those. As member for specialist children’s services Peter Oakford retorts: “It’s a little bit of a challenge for an under-five-year-old to walk all the way from Afghanistan on their own.”

      Oakford and his fellow councillors are quite within their rights to request assistance from other authorities and from the British government.

      They cross a line, however, in saying the refugee crisis is stopping them from finding appropriate homes for “citizen children.”

      Vulnerable children are vulnerable children and we have a duty to look after them: it makes no difference whether they hold British citizenship.

      “We have had to place Kent children outside of Kent due to the influx of UASC,” Oakford continues, deepening the divide.

      Whether consciously or not, such rhetoric evokes blue-eyed angels of the garden of England pitted against an amorphous, faceless other, buried in a handy acronym to help hide the horrific vulnerability conveyed by those four words: Unaccompanied asylum-seeking child.

      Oakford may not know it, but that was precisely the theme of the British National Party’s 2015 Christmas card, which depicted a crucified white child and pinned the blame on Syrian refugees.

      If Kent’s Tory-led council is struggling, it is hardly the fault of those fleeing the civil war in Syria, a civil war endlessly prolonged by Western — including British — backing for fanatical jihadist groups trying to overthrow the government.

      It might have something more to do with the colossal cuts made to local authority funds by their fellow Tories in Westminster.

      Since 2010 the authority has slashed spending by a staggering £350 million — equivalent to 37 per cent of the total.

      The 2015-16 budget alone incorporates cuts of £83.1m, which the council said last year would include savings from changing the way “adult and children’s services are delivered.”

      The Morning Star does not deny that children are suffering in David Cameron’s Britain.

      In five years’ time, one in four British children will be living in poverty if current trends continue.

      The accelerating immiseration of families on low incomes doesn’t bother the Conservatives: that’s why Iain Duncan Smith decided to abolish child poverty targets last summer.

      Passing the buck from the rich and powerful men who are running the British economy into the ground to the utterly destitute and powerless who are simply seeking safety is a disgraceful con.

      It is an old, old trick, but unfortunately it works. Hence the way the Labour Party has too often run from its better instincts and pandered to xenophobic and racist sentiments.

      To do so shames Labour and its principles — and by conceding ground to a pernicious lie it reinforces Tory propaganda and avoids pointing the finger at the real enemy: the City spivs, hedge fund managers, asset-strippers and profiteering outsourcers who finance the repulsive party that sits in power today.

      http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-fb72-Playing-into-racists-hands#.VqcdPlLa44A

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  6. Monday, 25 January 2016

    CORBYN VISITS DUNKIRK – as Brit haulage boss urges ‘send in troops’

    CONDEMNING the ‘dreadful conditions’ in Grande-Synthe refugee camp near Dunkirk, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told Sky News that up to 3,000 people waiting in makeshift camps in Calais should be processed if they want to come to Britain.

    The Labour leader said that the Labour Party has been too defensive about its immigration record and failed to make the case for the benefits of migration. He added of the Dunkirk camp: ‘We have got people here who have been here for months, if not longer than that, with no proper education, no access to doctors, no access to dentists, limited access to food – in very cold, very wet conditions.’

    He added: ‘We as human beings have to reach out to fellow human beings.’ Aid workers said tents at the camp were surrounded by puddles of water and food, which had attracted rats. The population of the camp has risen steadily in recent weeks to about 2,500, including about 250 children, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres. It says most are Kurds from Iran, Syria and Iraq who hope to reach the UK.

    Meanwhile, Richard Burnett Chief executive of the UK Road Haulage Association has demanded that the French authorities should deploy soldiers in order to secure the port of Calais. This came after the port was closed on Saturday and services were disrupted overnight after about 50 refugees briefly boarded a UK-bound P&O ferry.

    The occupation took place during a 2,000-strong ‘refugees are welcome here’ protest at the port in support of families who are resisting having their dwellings bulldozed as the French police seek to make a ‘buffer zone’ between the ‘Jungle’ camp and a motorway.

    Burnett said yesterday that the incident was the latest in a string of recent incursions in Calais, claiming it was ‘only a matter of time before our worst fears become a reality and a UK-bound truck driver is killed’. He said: ‘This shocking breach of security clearly shows that the migrant mayhem in and around Calais is not being tackled.

    ‘It is now time for the authorities to acknowledge and meet our demand for the French military to be deployed to secure the port and its approaches.’

    He added: ‘The number of migrants in the camp has escalated, the number of attempts, violent attempts against drivers, has been escalating, and we think now, after yesterday’s incident, enough is enough, the time for discussion’s over – we need action.’

    Damian Collins, Tory MP for Folkestone and Hythe, backed Burnett”s call, telling the BBC it was ‘incumbent on the French authorities to protect the port’. ‘If that requires deploying the military, then the French should do that,’ he added.

    http://wrp.org.uk/news/11768

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  9. Friday 29th January 2016

    posted by Paddy McGuffin in Britain

    Charities hit out at lack of figures on taking in refugees

    CHILDREN’S charities accused the government yesterday of turning its back on lone child refugees after it refused to say how many would be admitted to Britain under new proposals.

    Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said that Britain would provide resources to identify children in Greece and Italy who have family members in this country.

    A £10 million fund will also be established to support young refugees in Europe.

    However, he refused to state how many such children would be allowed into Britain, leading to concerns that the number would fall far short of humanitarians’ demands that 3,000 of those already in Europe be admitted.

    “We want the government proactively to seek out refugee children in Europe with family connections in the UK and speed up the process of reunification,” said Save the Children.

    The charity originally proposed the 3,000 target — which it said would represent a “fair share” of the estimated 26,000 children who arrived in Europe in 2015 without any family.

    But Mr Brokenshire said the government would maintain its policy of mainly taking refugees directly from conflict zones in order to avoid creating what it claims would be a “magnet” for more to make the perilous journey to Europe.

    “The crisis in Syria and events in the Middle East, north Africa and beyond has separated a large number of refugee children from their families,” he said in a statement.

    “The vast majority are better off staying in the region so they can be reunited with surviving family members, so we have asked the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to identify the exceptional cases where a child’s best interests are served by resettlement to the UK and help us to bring them here.”

    Save the Children campaigns director Kirsty McNeill said there was currently “confusion” around exactly what the government was proposing.

    “What is new is there does seem to be action in Italy and Greece to help the authorities identify more children who are already in Europe and get them to safety here in the UK,” she told the BBC.

    However, it appeared they would only be eligible if they had a “family connection,” she said.

    More needed to be done to help child refugees in Europe, saying that thousands “simply disappeared” from the Italian system last year “into the hands of traffickers, or … the sex trade or the drugs trade,” she warned.

    Labour refugee task force chairwoman Yvette Cooper said that Britain “cannot turn our backs on children who are already in Europe and desperate families who have already come to Europe because they are fleeing persecution.”

    http://morningstaronline.co.uk/a-6f75-Britain-turning-its-back-on-lone-kids#.VqsgmuZrgdU

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