By Barbara Kentish, Westminster Justice & Peace Commission Lead on Refugees and Migrants
Five of us, obeying government guidelines on numbers, delivered our letter and petition as promised, to the French Embassy this morning. Pat Gaffney from Pax Christi, Fr Dominic Robinson SJ from Justice and Peace, Brother Johannes from London Catholic Worker, Fr Joe Ryan from West Green Tottenham parish and myself took the hundreds of signatures and our letter asking for French-British collaboration for a humanitarian outcome to the small-boat Channel crossings. We succeeded in handing it over to officials at the French Embassy in leafy Knightsbridge and had a pleasant walk across the park to the Home Office in Marsham Street. Here we found a very closed door. The head security officer told us, after he had investigated, that delivering petitions could only be done if accompanied by a solicitor! We had emailed earlier in the week, with copy of our letter, but this was not enough: you need your solicitor to go along too, so after a friendly chat with the security man, we beat a retreat. Rather like the rules on COVID 19, the UK Home Office can be extremely unpredictable. We will make an appointment of course, but this could be a long wait!
There is still time to sign the petition until we get an appointment with Ms Priti Patel’s elusive staff!
Meanwhile, our friends on the other side of the Channel in Calais demonstrate for human rights in their city today (Saturday, 26 September.) We wish them well, and pray that they will be heard as they claim not only rights for migrants, but also for themselves, so they don’t pick up the infections.