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Both Houses Debate Calais Today, Thursday

November 2, 2017 12:41 PM
By Helen Byrne in Liberal Democrat Voice

Ahead of the today's debate in the House of Commons on "Calais and unaccompanied child refugees in Europe", and in the House of Lords on "Government assessment of the condition of refugees and migrants still in Calais and the surrounding area" (led by Lib Dem peer, Lord Roberts of Llandudno) Lord Robert's parliamentary researcher writes:

As anyone in the vicinity of Parliament Square last Tuesday will likely have gathered, given a well-attended protest in its recognition, October marks a year since the demolition of the Calais 'jungle.'

Outside Ronnie Scott's on Friday, where I was singing as part of the Citizens of the World Refugee Choir, I took up the matter of this unfortunate choice of name for the Calais camp with a friend who himself had spent time in the camp before he made his way to Britain. 'Of course it does,' he answered, when I asked if the name bothered him, 'animals sleep in a jungle.'

And indeed, the Calais camp is no place for a human. One year on, there is not even a 'jungle,' left to sleep in while the Home Office continues to shirk its responsibilities under the Dubs Amendment, displacing an estimated 800 asylum seekers and migrants in and around the area. An estimated 40% are minors. Abuse at the hands of police, including disruption of humanitarian assistance, and 'harassment' of the aid workers who come to help 'at least partly driven by a desire to keep down migrant numbers,' persists.

A shortage of safe and legal routes to Britain, to which there are many draws (family members, hope that the Home Office will make good on a moral imperative to help, and the prevalence of English as a second language - ironic in that it is a consequence of our colonial past) only serve to encourage vulnerable people to take dangerous risks.

No one should be made to feel like an animal a mere 90 minutes from a country with the resources and the responsibility to help them. Tell your MP today that Britain can and should do better.

* Helen Byrne is a graduate of University College Dublin where she studied Law with Social Justice. She works as a parliamentary researcher for Lord Roger Roberts and in the Joint Public Issues Team, an ecumenical thinktank, campaigning on refugee/asylum issues.