PRESS RELEASE: 21st Feb. 2023: RACIST ATTACKS AND YOUNG PEOPLE MISSING FROM REFUGEE HOTELS ARE RESULT OF UK GOVERNMENT’S LACK OF ACTION SEVEN YEARS AGO
RAPAR (Refugee and Asylum Participatory Action Research)
21st February 2023
PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Racist attacks and young people missing from refugee hotels are result of UK Government’s lack of action seven years ago
Conservative Party Deputy Chair Lee Anderson’s weekend comments that Calais charities are ‘just as bad as people smugglers’ are disingenuous, divisive and dangerous.
Seven years ago, RAPAR was asked by the leaders of the ‘Calais Jungle’ refugee camp to send an open letter they had composed to Prime Minister David Cameron. This was done but their letter was not even acknowledged. In it, the recognised leaders of the camp proposed the opening up of safe routes into the UK in order to save lives and halt the huge money-making operations of people smugglers. (See text of Open Letter at the end of this press release.)
Since 31st March 2016, when the letter was sent, there have been hundreds of deaths - not just at the Calais border but in lorries and, more recently, small boat tragedies.
Inflammatory comments (Lee Anderson says Calais charities ‘just as bad as people smugglers’ - Independent) encourage current attempts by far right groups to demonise people seeking asylum who have been placed by the Home Office in hotels throughout the UK. The racist and fascist far right are capitalising on the fears and frustrations of UK citizens confronted with a profound housing crisis and spiralling living costs. Together with the current Home Secretary’s incendiary language, it has led to an increasingly dangerous situation as we have recently seen in Knowsley and elsewhere. (Suella Braverman proved it again: racism is a fire the Tories love to play with - Guardian)
On Saturday, RAPAR participated in a large anti racist rally in Liverpool to show support for refugees living in asylum hotels managed by Serco and other ‘for profit’ companies. (See top of this page: Seeking Safety.)
The same day, the Guardian reported that police had focused on North Manchester in their search for missing refugee children who have seemingly been abducted from hotels: Revealed: UK’s missing child refugees put to work for Manchester gangs.
This story quotes police as saying that one young man had been commuting daily from a Warrington asylum accommodation ‘contingency hotel’ to North Manchester. Last summer, in a meeting with police and social services, RAPAR was told by the police representative at the meeting that there was a history of very problematic safeguarding incidents being reported from one of the hotel chains. RAPAR asked why, in the light of that fact, this hotel chain was being used at all inside of the asylum process where, by definition, residents are acutely vulnerable.
The police officer’s observation is reflected in comments made by Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper when the scandal of the large number of minors missing from hotels on the south coast was revealed by a whistleblower. She said Greater Manchester Police had warned that children in asylum hotels were being targeted: Yvette Cooper – 2023 Speech on Missing Unaccompanied Asylum-seeking Children
In December, RAPAR profiled a Serco whistleblower who raised serious concerns about the lack of safeguarding training for employees working with vulnerable adults in Warrington, including young men whose ages were disputed and who may have been minors.
For nearly a year, RAPAR has been highlighting profound safeguarding concerns relating to hotels in Manchester and Stockport. This was initially about children not being in school (Refugee pupils with no school places have lessons in Manchester car parks - Guardian) but other safeguarding issues have since come to light.
If the solutions offered by leaders in the Calais refugee camp in 2016 had been heeded, the subsequent deaths, disappearances and exploitation of people seeking safety would have been avoided.
It has never been more vital for the agencies that are supposed to be managing migration in the UK to finally listen to refugees and involve them in finding solutions. Like the overwhelming majority of UK citizens, the people living in hotels have a vested interest in undercutting the racism that is confronting them. Together, practical solutions can and must be found.
Text of OPEN LETTER FROM CALAIS ‘JUNGLE’ CAMP REFUGEES
TO DAVID CAMERON AND THE BRITISH PEOPLE
The representatives of the communities of people living in the Calais refugee camp, the ‘Jungle’, have written an open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron and the people of Britain.
Entrusted into the hands of RAPAR, this open letter has been sent by recorded delivery today to David Cameron. A photographic image of that letter, and of the registered envelope in which it was sent, are attached to this release.
The letter is signed by camp residents from Afghanistan, Sudan, Syria, India, Kuwait, the Kurdish, and Solomon, an individual. These signatures include those leaders now recognised by the French State as representatives of the Refugees. At yesterday’s weekly camp meeting, at which RAPAR was present, Medicins Sans Frontier reported back from their latest meeting with the Pays –de-Calais Cabinet of the Prefecture, Delphine Brard. They confirmed that, to enable direct communication, she is now asking for the names and numbers of the refugee camp leaders.
Dated today, 31st March 2016, the Open Letter says:
Open Letter from the Community Representatives of the Calais ‘Jungle’ Camp to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, and to its people.
From the point of view of the different community representatives in the ‘Jungle’, we see the British Government spending millions of pounds, an enormous amount of money, each year, to secure its borders. But what is happening? The borders aren’t secure. Are you able to stop Refugees from coming to the UK? No. People are going to the UK illegally because the British Government has blocked the legal ways.
The only thing that this use of British taxpayer’s money is doing, is empowering the Traffickers. Please, think about it. There are a minimum of 8000 Refugees in France. For each one, to be guaranteed to reach the UK, it costs around 10 thousand pounds. Per head, this is an enormous amount of money. Where is that money going beyond the Traffickers?
The people staying here in the ’Jungle’ are risking their lives to get to the UK. They are putting themselves in danger, waiting for many months, illegally, and, if they can find the money, spending 8 to 10 thousand pounds to reach Britain. Every month between 5-700 people are reaching the UK from France, illegally. They would not go illegally if you provided them with a legal way. There are thousands of people, waiting here, to go to the UK, legally.
The time has come to find an alternative, a better political solution, for Britain, for France, for Europe: for the people here, and for your borders. We understand that the British Government might be scared about different people coming into the UK that you don’t want. We understand that you might be frightened about terrorists coming to the UK. Therefore an asylum system in place, here in France, here in Calais, where Refugees can apply for asylum in the UK, from here. This is the solution.
Together, work it out with us, the Refugees in Calais.
For more information contact:
Dr Rhetta Moran, RAPAR, 07776264646/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Kath Grant 07865 713474