Six or seven trips to Calais over the past year, the most recent being yesterday Monday 7th September. Dover/Calais return day trip-£16.
Half of the Syrian Refugees live below the lighthouse, (you can obviously see the landmark from miles afar). The other half of them live in the infamous ‘Jungle’, the encampment a mile or so to the East of Calais port.
Each visit you see new faces. Each visit some of the old faces are no longer there. Those faces, with dreams, skills, brothers, sisters, families and friends have made it to the UK. If you planted a guard every 5 metres along Calais’ fenced border-you would still not stop the flow. You might reduce it, but these guys and girls would still find a way over.
Personally, I am not saying, “let all these people in”. What I am saying though is, “let’s find the best way of helping all these mostly desperate people”.
Keeping it simple and focusing on this small group of Syrians in Calais, the number of them fluctuates around the 250 mark.
I met one of these guys yesterday. He is an accountant. He speaks excellent English. His sister has lived in the UK for ten years. His younger brother is with him in Calais. I met him too. His other brother made it across the channel just a few weeks ago. The accountant and his younger brother now attempt to join him and his sister in London.
The 35 year old accountant has two brothers and a sister. I have two brothers and a sister. I cannot bring myself to imagine myself in his position. I cannot bring myself to imagine accompanying my two brothers on a journey fraught with danger, injury, death and huge sorrow.
David Cameron talks of bringing 20,000 Refugees from the camps surrounding Syria. Of course in principal this can be good, so long as he has a well thought out plan, so long as it doesn’t make the problem worse, both for the refugees, and for the country they arrive in, the UK in this case.
Keeping it simple for the moment. I see around 250 Syrian people in Calais, mostly men, English speakers on the whole, with relatives and friends in the UK. They have fled horror and if they arrive in the UK are able to apply for asylum immediately.
If the UK’s border with France was in the UK they could travel here no problem…but the UK border with France-is in France. The only way they can travel to the UK is under a lorry, in a lorry, on top of a lorry, clung to a train, clung to a ferry. It doesn’t make sense, to me.
Again, I am not saying just let everybody in, but the Syrians in Calais could do with a much better deal, in my opinion.
I went to Calais yesterday to ask the Syrian guys a question. I hoped that they might listen to me. I hoped that they wouldn’t take offence. I hoped that I wouldn’t severely piss them off.
So here’s my little plan. It’s sort of simple. Would it work? Could it work? Is it a good idea? If it’s not, maybe you can think of something better.
I spoke to the accountant. I said “are you happy to listen to what I have to say?” He said yes.
I said, “if we were able to get you some sort of temporary work/stay visas in France, then somehow we could arrange some decent accommodation for you. Might you consider the possibility of doing some temporary work and getting paid for it whilst at the same time exploring ways to be able to apply for asylum in the UK, from France?”
He said that that could work. He said they were willing to listen to anything that might give them the opportunity to at least apply for Asylum from where they were…or the very best scenario, to be allowed to cross into the UK legally…where they are allowed to apply for asylum legally anyway.
I told him about the world’s plastic pollution problem. But he knew about that already! I told him about the huge movement around the world that was attempting to clear up all the plastic from the beaches and oceans, and he sort of knew all about that too.
I said, “if we could arrange this, might you be interested in potentially and temporarily being involved in this kind of project, in effect giving them rest time from risking their lives on the channel journey, being cared for and supported at the same time and with the primary quest of exploring ways of applying for asylum from where they were?”
He liked the idea. In fact, three times he said he like the idea.
There is a small group of Syrians surviving in Calais. Having the UK border in France stops them from legally claiming asylum from UK soil.
Maybe there is a way to reduce the tension of this situation.
I’ve said it before. Europe’s beaches are littered with plastic. There are thousands of Refugees looking for meaningful lives. Logistically huge, but the idea is simple. Can some of the Refugee population, who we wish to help, help us in the same instance?
Many people are desperate to live in a clean world. Many people are desperate to live.
Do we have the ability to contemplate focusing on the word ‘simple’?