While recent news has focussed on the UK government's decision to renege on their promise under the Dubs Amendment, to take 3,000 lone refugee children - volunteers in France are struggling to cope with hundreds of children - who've no longer even had the shelter of the 'Jungle' through this cold winter.
At the very end of January, the Calais Council registered a complaint against some exiled minors who had been found sheltering from the rain beneath one of the building modules of the Secours Catholique Day Centre, while waiting for it to open. The charge is: 'installation on the property of others'. Officials claimed that, because people with sleeping bags were there in the morning, a squat was being set up. (Even temporary dwellings are not permitted because no "camps" are allowed in the Calais region since the dismantling of the "Jungle".)
Secours Catholique is broadly France's equivalent of Christian Aid, not known as a militant group! Vincent De Coninck, the regional organiser, was subsequently interviewed by police and a few reports appeared in French media on Tuesday 8 February, following a statement from the town hall. He said this incident, on private premises and away from any houses, goes to show the level of harassment now experienced by exiles! Never before in seven years or operation have people been arrested while waiting for the doors to open - and this in extremely cold weather.
Subsequently, Secours Catholique awaited the delivery of three modules to their Rue Moscou premises: two shower modules and one as a reception area. Temporary structures require no planning permit for up to three months of erection and the association had judged that there is a health emergency, seeing cases of scabies found in both minors and adults. Also the essential dignity of individuals is at stake with no possibility of remaining clean and having access to a minimum of hygiene.
The two shower modules were delivered to the forecourt without any problem. However, a Town Hall official then turned up and parked his car in front of the entrance to block access. This was later replaced by a large rubbish skip,
Secours Catholique has testified to the hindrance of its humanitarian aid via its bailiff and their legal department is following up the case. They still plan to open the showers one afternoon, taking migrants to the gate by car so that they can slip through a gap at the end of the skip. They accept that it is possible that the 'forces of order' will try to question people, and hope to invite others to be present to peacefully to observe any attempts at intimidation. (They do not want a demonstration, they want things to remain calm without any crowds outside avoiding any disturbance to the neighbourhood or to public order - they need to be able to continue operations in the longer term).
The association's national officers have posted a strongly-worded message on their website, pointing out the state's obvious failure to address the challenge of caring for migrants. They say that, faced with such failures, Secours Catholique will continue to provide the minimum of humanitarian aid and human warmth needed by the exiled people. They will continue to support the solidarity of fellow citizens who do this in the name of simple humanity, even though some may consider it to be illegal.
Visit Secours Catholique's website here: www.secours-catholique.org/actualites/mineurs-en-danger-la-solidarite-bafouee
For further information on how you or your organisation can help, contact Ben Bano on 07887 651117 or Phil Kerton on 01474 873802. To check the latest news, visit: www.seekingsanctuary.weebly.com.
Sign a petition asking Theresa May to reinstate the Dubs Amendment taking in unaccompanied child refugees here: www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=31897