BY Ryan McDougall | October 25 2019 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

1--refugees

UK government complicit in ‘pushing refugees into hands of traffickers’

The Bishop of Galloway has called on the government to make safe and legal routes for asylum seekers.

The bishop of Galloway has accused the UK Government of complicity in a clampdown on asylum seekers in Europe which is ‘pushing’ vulnerable people into the ‘arms of human traffickers.’

Bishop William Nolan’s comments come as Justice and Peace Scotland, the Bishops’ social justice arm, accused the government of ‘picking and choosing which bits of the law suit them’ as they continue to deport refugees and asylum seekers from the UK.

On October 24 2016, the refugee camp in Calais know as ‘the Jungle,’ which provided shelter for thousands of displaced people, was destroyed, dispersing its inhabitants across Europe. Bishop Nolan visited the aftermath of the destruction earlier this year, and three years on from the camp’s removal he said the situation is ‘now more desperate than ever.’

Desperate measures

“The policies of attrition—wearing down refugees through harsh treatment, including eviction from places of shelter, confiscation of possessions, assault and use of pepper spray—are forcing already vulnerable people to increasingly desperate measures, pushing them into the arms of people smugglers and human traffickers,” Bishop Nolan said.

“Human rights activists helping refugees are also being harassed.

“It is shameful that this is happening with the knowledge and financial support of the UK government.

“Now, three years since the jungle was destroyed, with no progress being made, I once again join the calls made on our government that safe and legal routes must be established, and that an infrastructure which allows for dignified living for those in Calais must be a priority,” he said, adding that the dignity of refugees and asylum seekers should be upheld regardless of their status.

Detention

In early 2019 Justice and Peace Scotland’s Encounter Calais project saw two groups travel to liaise with Care4Calais, an aid organisation that brings food, clothes and support to the refugees of Calais, Dunkirk and Brussels.

Danny Sweeney, coordinator for Justice and Peace Scotland, spoke of the hostility he faced from authorities.

“There are reports of volunteers being detained for several hours by the police,” he said.

He added: “When the government talks about returning those who cross the Channel to France what they are really wanting to do is suspend elements of the Refugee Convention, the agreement which was established in 1951 to provide a framework to respond to the mass displacements which had taken place following the Second World War.”

The Refugee Convention recognises that people fleeing persecution may not have the necessary documents such as personal identification, or the option to cross international borders legally.

Mr Sweeney said the UK Government is ‘picking and choosing which bits of the law suit them’ and setting ‘a dangerous precedent.’

Destruction

Clare Mosley, founder of charity Care4Calais, said major clearances of refugee camps are ongoing in France, with the biggest site in the city fenced off, people arrested and refugees’ tents and possessions destroyed by authorities.

A Dunkirk gym that provided shelter to approximately 600 people has also closed down, meaning several hundreds of the refugees who relied on it are sleeping rough.

Ms Mosley said forced evictions of refugees is a ‘pointless exercise.’

“What does happen is that some of the most vulnerable people in society —people who are already severely traumatised, who don’t have the protection of the law, people who have done nothing wrong but are desperate to protect their families and have the audacity to ask for our help—are further abused and sacrificed.”

Haunting

Frances Gallagher, campaigns and communications officer for Justice and Peace Scotland, said her visit to Calais in February this year still haunts her.

“Since my visit to Calais in February this year, from time to time, I find myself wondering how the man I saw shivering without a coat on in the car park at the Dunkirk distribution point is?

“Or how the young man with no socks on whose shoes had burst along the side is?” she said.

The Home Office was approached for comment.

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