Sunday, 16 October 2016

DUBS NOW by Tess Berry-Hart

On Friday evening at Liverpool Street Station, people gathered outside the statue of the Kindertransport, where 70 years ago refugee children arrived from Europe on the eve of the Second World War. On Saturday afternoon, crowds marched from Westminster to Downing Street to demand that refugee children be allowed in to the UK. The signs that the campaigners held bore amongst others, the wording: LET THE REFUGEE CHILDREN IN and #DUBSNOW.

There are two routes whereby unaccompanied children in camps in Europe might be brought over to the UK: either to join family in the UK either under the Dublin Protocols (EU family reunification policy) or the Dubs Amendment (67 of the Immigration Act 2016) whereby the UK government should make arrangements to relocate unaccompanied children in Europe.

The Dubs Amendment does not require an unaccompanied child to have family in the UK, but simply to have arrived in Europe before the 20th March 2016 (when the EU-Turkey border deal came into being) and where it is in the child's "best interest" to be relocated to the UK.

Dublin and Dubs sound similar but are actually different: there is an existing, though bureaucratically clogged, system of transfer between the French and UK governments for "Dublin" children, whereas at the moment there is no such system for "Dubs" children. The fear is that the UK government will concentrate on bringing over "Dublin" children with relatives (out of 178 "Dublin" children six arrived on Saturday) and marginalise the "Dubs" children (at least 209 children in the camp have a workable case according to Citizens UK).

Last week the UK government announced that some children from the Calais camp would be allowed into the UK prior to the Calais Jungle being demolished. In Calais, the race is on by volunteer groups to make sure that the 1,022 unaccompanied children are registered by the French authorities before evictions start in earnest next week. Many volunteers report an inconsistent and system by the French authorities in Calais in registering children. The very real fear is that many children will not be registered, or that, mistrusting the system which has tear-gassed and beaten them - they will simply pick up a backpack and disappear.

Since partial demolitions in February, 129 children have gone missing, and 18 more since July, when a list of those eligible to enter the UK under Dublin family regulations (178) or the Dubs Amendment (209) was delivered to the Government.

As regards the rest of the camp, the French authorities have committed to demolishing Calais by the end of October (it's illegal to evict people in winter so they're making sure they do it before November sets in). They have spoken about it for a while but with the French presidential elections looming they mean it this time.

The official line is that camp residents will be put on buses to other parts of France where they will have their asylum claims considered. Concerns have been raised in the French and UK press - by the French defenseur du droit amongst others - that the authorities are not managing the process correctly as they do not have enough places, and those places available are badly converted derelict buildings or garages, often in far-flung places in France.
However, this process does not take account of those residents who have a claim to enter the UK under the Dublin family reunification rules or those children under the Dubs Amendment. Many people will not choose to take up the asylum option, and instead disappear to set up numerous squats and impromptu camps around northern France. The Jungle may disappear, but the need will never disappear.

Last September I visited the camp at Calais for the first time and was horribly stunned at the conditions that people were living in, so much so that I got involved with newly-founded volunteer group Calais Action. If you'd told me that one year on I'd still be working as a volunteer aid worker and campaigning for refugee rights I would have been amazed. I think everyone in the movement would have been amazed - back then we all thought that we needed to stop the gap for a few months until the governments sorted it out. But they will ONLY sort it out when WE, THE PEOPLE, pressure them!

How you can help


PLEASE TWEET @amberrudd_MP using the hashtag #DubsNow to encourage her to take MORE refugee children in Calais - not just "Dublin" children - but "Dubs" children!

PLEASE WRITE to your MP and Theresa May via asking that unaccompanied children under the Dubs Amendment (ie, those WITHOUT family in the UK) ALSO be brought over from Calais immediately. Make clear that you know the difference!

PLEASE SHARE our #DubsNow video on Twitter and Facebook and follow Calais Action and I Am Red on Facebook for more updates!

For evictions:

Please text CALA85 + the amount you want to donate to 70070
Phone credit is often the only security that refugees, and refugee children, have

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1 comment:

Joan Lennon said...

Thanks Tess. Hard to read, but we have to know and act.