Following a visit to Calais in November, Bishop Paul McAleenan, Lead Bishop for Asylum and Migration for England and Wales, and Bishop William Nolan, President of Justice and Peace Scotland, issued a joint statement drawing attention to the plight of the hundreds of young migrants still living there and calling for more help:
‘Over a year since the dismantling of “the jungle”, the situation in Calais may have disappeared from public consciousness and headlines, however, whilst the camp has closed young migrants remain.
‘Their situation is now much worse. These young people are forced to sleep rough, which at this time of year as temperatures fall is of great concern. Their presence is discouraged by the authorities; police tactics include interrupting sleep and confiscating tents and sleeping bags. Aid agencies report that the policies of the British government have resulted in young people turning to people smugglers in attempts to reach the UK.
‘We urge the authorities to recognise that these are our fellow human beings, regardless of their status, and that their intrinsic dignity must be upheld. Of particular concern are unaccompanied minors whose rights as children must be recognised by both French and UK authorities.
‘We appreciate the work of Secours Catholique, other aid associations, and their volunteers who are accompanying these young people and providing for the basic needs of food and clothing.
‘We call upon the UK government to embrace the true spirit of the Dubs Amendment, and extend this provision beyond the original timeframe of March 2016; to streamline the implementation of the Dublin III Regulations, which allow children to be reunited with their families in the UK; to establish facilities that will allow migrants to raise their asylum claims from Europe, creating safe legal channels.
‘We ask both UK and French governments to develop infrastructures to enable dignified living in Calais.
‘As the season of Advent begins, we are reminded again that the Holy Family were themselves refugees forced to flee their home seeking sanctuary in a foreign land.’
The bishops also asked that Catholics in the UK and France continue to support the work of Secours Catholique and the Maria Skobtsova House to provide practical support to these young migrants.