I have just received and am passing on guidance on how to offer practical help in Calais, from that excellent organisation, Seeking Sanctuary – see the link,
However, I would argue that we should, as well as showing compassion and welcome, also speak up about the injustice and inhumanity of treating thousands of refugees coming from the Middle East and Africa in the way we do. One of the allegories we often use to explain what Justice and Peace is about is about ‘The babies in the stream’: Seeing babies floating down the river a horrified community jumps in to save them. They keep coming and the community keeps jumping in. Finally one citizen suggests going upstream to find out what is going on, so as to prevent this horrible phenomenon. That response is ‘justice and peace’.
I never thought we would actually see this situation happen, but day after day we hear about worse phenomena than those allegorical babies, as drowning continues on a shocking scale in the Mediterranean. In the European context, the refugee situation – I prefer to call it a ‘political’ problem not a ‘refugee’ problem, since it seems obvious that a unit of 500 million
Rally for refugee rights in Calais September 2015
people should be able to absorb 1 million incomers – is caused by the failure of rich countries to coordinate a response . War and instability in the Middle East, and failing states in Africa need foreign policy responses, but also a coordinated humanitarian response. We are closing our eyes if we think these issues will go away tomorrow.
The UK have contributed around £80m on security and fencing around Calais (you will see it still going up as Eurostar pulls away from Calais-Fréthun station), and the French government have provided only for those applying for asylum in France. With no policing inside the camp, and no medical or education services this seems to me to be pretending that there is no problem, that the camp is full of non-persons. Compare that with the generosity of people we read about in Lesbos and Lampedusa, and Europe presents a very uncoordinated picture.
A Europe-wide policy is needed. Thirteen aid agencies, including CAFOD, published in early April an excellent, detailed analysis of what needs to happen on a UK and a Europe-wide level, called SAFE HAVENS. It remains to be seen whether these measures can be achieved in or out of the EU. We have a duty to inform ourselves and to vote in solidarity with the poorest, for the Common Good, and for peace.