In Depth

Refugee crisis: Calais Jungle children 'have nowhere to sleep'

Around 100 youngsters left in refugee camp after French demolition crews tear down tents and shelters

Calais 'Jungle' would move to UK after Brexit

03 March

The Calais refugee camp known as the "Jungle" could move to Britain if the UK leaves the European Union, the French economy minister has warned.

Emmanuel Macron told the Financial Times that the 2003 Le Touquet Agreement, which allows Britain to conduct border checks on the French side of the Channel, would crumble in the case of a Brexit.

"The day this relationship unravels, migrants will no longer be in Calais and the financial passport would work less well," he said.

His remarks follow those of Xavier Bertrand, the president of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie region, who said France would no longer man the border if Britain left the EU.

"If Britain leaves Europe, right away the border will leave Calais and go to Dover. We will not continue to guard the border for Britain if it's no longer in the European Union," he said.

Prime Minister David Cameron also claimed refugee camps would spring up in Britain after Brexit. "You would move the camp – and the people in it – overnight to the south-east of England," said his official spokesman last month.

His comments came in for criticism from those arguing for Britain to leave the bloc. Former defence minister Liam Fox said he was "sad and disappointed" to see the Prime Minister "stoop to this level of scaremongering".

According to the Financial Times, Cameron is working with the French government to coordinate a message aimed at persuading British voters they are safer within the EU.

Emboldened by Macron's remarks, says The Guardian, the Prime Minister is hoping French President Francois Hollande will back his position when they meet for a summit in Amiens this week.

Britain to accept more child refugees from Syria

28 January

The government has announced plans to welcome an unspecified number of child refugees from Syria and neighbouring countries, but is reluctant to invite those who have already arrived in Europe.

Downing Street has long argued that accepting refugees from Europe would only encourage more people to make the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees are to help implement the scheme, said immigration minister James Brokenshire. "We have asked [them] to identify the exceptional cases where a child's best interests are served by resettlement to the UK and help us to bring them here," he added.

The Department for International Development has also announced a £10m package to help under-18s already in Europe, some of whom could be brought to the UK, "where it is in their best interests".

The move follows growing calls for the government to offer sanctuary to the thousands of children who have been separated from their families in the ongoing civil war in Syria.

But "crucially, the government won't put a number on how many extra children will be allowed to come", says the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg.

"Sources indicate that the number will not significantly increase the current commitment to resettle 20,000 refugees from the region over the next five years," she adds.

With charities estimating around 26,000 unaccompanied and vulnerable children entered Europe last year, critics warn the measures do not go far enough.

Shadow home secretary Andy Burnham told Buzzfeed News he was "pleased that [the government] has listened" to the charities' calls, "but there are desperate children in Europe who also need our help.

"The government cannot continue to draw the false distinction between refugees in the region and refugees in Europe," he added.

Save the Children, which had initially proposed that the government accept at least 3,000 children from war-torn regions, welcomed the news, but said: "We've been calling for the government to be as ambitious as possible and we will continue to do that and we will watch how this plays out."

The announcement comes amid growing criticism of Prime Minister David Cameron for describing refugees in Calais as a "bunch of migrants".  Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called on him to apologise for his "dismissive language and tone" that "demeans people's suffering".

David Cameron under fire for 'bunch of migrants' comment 

27 January

David Cameron is facing growing calls to apologise after referring to refugees in Calais as a "bunch of migrants".  

Speaking during this afternoon's Prime Minister's Questions, he said: "[Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell] met with a bunch of migrants in Calais, they said they could all come to Britain."

Cameron was referencing the Labour leader's recent trip to the refugee camps in Dunkirk and Calais.

His comments drew immediate criticism from the opposition, with a Labour spokesperson saying the language "demonstrates an attitude that is wholly unacceptable to a humanitarian crisis on our doorstep".

Many of the people Corbyn met during his visit have fled war and conflict in countries like Syria and Iraq. They now live in squalid condition in the French camps, largely dependent on aid.

"To dismiss them as 'a bunch of migrants' is to rob them of their individuality and humanity, to write them off as unwanted rabble, Jonathan Freedland writes for The Guardian.

"It is language we might use about thugs or criminals, not people who have crossed a continent in the desperate search for safety or a better life."

Responding to the criticism, Downing Street said it had spent £1.2bn to help refugees in French camps and warned that Labour's approach would "open the door and provide an incentive for more to come to Calais," the BBC reports

But this isn't the first time the PM has been criticised for his choice of words. After Cameron described refugees in Calais as a "swarm" last year, UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said such rhetoric echoed language used in the run-up to the Nazi Holocaust.

The timing of today's comments made them sound even more harsh and heartless, says Freedland.

 "For a matter of moments earlier, Cameron had led the Commons in sombre recognition of Holocaust Memorial Day. The prime minister should have chosen his words with greater care." 

Refugee wristband policy to be dropped, says private firm 

25 January 

A private firm supplying accommodation for refugees in Cardiff will stop forcing them to wear brightly coloured wristbands, introducing a photo ID card instead.

The bands entitled the wearers to claim three free meals a day, but The Guardian reported on Sunday that they had resulted in asylum-seekers suffering "harassment and abuse" from members of the public.

The policy was implemented at Lynx House in Cardiff by Clearsprings Ready Homes, under contract from the Home Office. Some staff were said to have refused to feed people who were not wearing their bands.

Eric Ngalle, who lived in Lynx House for a month before being granted asylum, said he had been subjected to "terrible remarks" while wearing the wristband in the street.

Some drivers would "start honking their horns and shout out of the window, 'Go back to your country,'" he said.

"My time in Lynx House was one of the most horrible experiences in my life. I hated wearing the wristbands and sometimes refused to wear them and was turned away from food," he added.

"If we refused to wear the wristbands, we were told we would be reported to the Home Office."

Shadow justice minister Jo Stevens, the Labour MP for Cardiff Central, said she would raise the issue in the Commons today. According to Sky News, she has also spoken to Clearsprings and received an assurance the policy will be scrapped.

The Welsh Refugee Council said it had raised the issue "many times" with the Welsh government. "It harks back to the Nazi regime with people being forced to wear a Star of David and stand out," said a spokeswoman.

"It's absolutely appalling. It is treating people like lesser beings. It is treating them like animals lining up to feed."

News of the policy comes shortly after it emerged that a private contractor supplying housing in Middlesbrough had painted the doors of refugee homes bright red.

Asylum seekers 'targeted because of painted red doors'

20 January

The doors of houses used by asylum seekers in Middlesbrough will be repainted after claims their bright red colour made the residents easy targets for racial abuse.

An investigation by The Times revealed "the secret apartheid policy" it said publicly branded hundreds of refugees in some of the town's most deprived areas.

The properties are owned by Jomast, a sub-contractor for the security company G4S. Both firms have repeatedly denied it is policy to house asylum seekers behind red doors.

However, following an emergency meeting yesterday, they announced the doors would be repainted so "there is no predominant colour".

Residents say the colour has made them easy targets for racially motivated attacks, with some reporting dog excrement being smeared against their doors and abuse shouted through windows. 

"When people see [the doors], everyone knows it means asylum seekers," said one man. "They put us behind red doors. We feel ashamed. I didn't think your country would allow something like this."

Another resident described how she had been targeted by a gang of young people. "They said, 'F*** you, dirty women. Get out of our country. You don't belong here,'" she said.

Former local MP Ian Swales described the doors as a "mark of separation" that "reminds you of Germany in the 1930s".

Immigration minister James Brokenshire said he was "deeply concerned" about the issue and has commissioned an urgent audit into asylum seeker housing in the north-east, the BBC reports.

Refugee crisis: WW2 veteran slams 'selfish' Europe

A British Second World War veteran has condemned the West's response to the refugee crisis after paying a visit to the Calais migrant camp known as the 'Jungle'.

Harry Leslie Smith, a 92-year-old RAF veteran who now writes for a number of publications, spent a day in the 'Jungle' - thought to house more than 6,000 people from countries including Afghanistan, Syria, Eritrea and Sudan. A month later, he has tweeted that he is still "haunted" by the desperate conditions he saw in the camp, and the world's seeming reluctance to intervene.

Smith made the journey to Calais more than 70 years after first arriving on the Continent as a 21-year-old recruit. Writing in the New Statesman, he likened the inhabitants of the Calais camp to the streams of refugees he witnessed making their way across Europe as the Second World War came to an end.

But while the hungry and dispossessed European refugees were treated with kindness and generosity by Western governments, Smith writes, modern-day refugees are ignored and marginalised.

The displaced persons camps, which sprang up across Europe in the aftermath of the war, provided "care, sanitation, educational services and vocational training" for their inhabitants while they waited for a chance to return home or resettle abroad, Smith recalls.

Meanwhile, the refugees in the Jungle suffer hunger, deprivation and poor sanitation, fenced off from the rest of the world in what Smith describes as a symbol of the world's indifference.

"The world has changed since I was young. It has not grown harder: just more foolish and selfish," Smith says, accusing politicians and citizens alike of "ignoring our moral, political and human responsibility to be our brothers' keepers". 

Refugee crisis could push Britain out of the EU, Cameron warns

10 December

David Cameron has warned that the ongoing refugee crisis could lead Britons to vote themselves out of the European Union in the forthcoming referendum.

The prime minister is seeking to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the EU ahead of a national vote on the UK's membership, due to take place by the end of 2017. 

Speaking to the Spectator magazine, Cameron said the short term impact of the refugee crisis could make voters think, "Oh Christ, push Europe away from me, it's bringing me problems".

But he also believes that it might help him secure the changes he is seeking in his renegotiations with the EU, the Daily Telegraph reports. 

"I think the longer term reaction might actually be, well if […] they are on our doorstep let's make sure our relationship with them works and then we have safeguards," he said. 

However, Cameron has faced widespread criticism for failing to respond to the humanitarian crisis at Europe's borders, while at the same time issuing demand from Brussels.

"It seems perverse at a time when Britain is asking for solidarity over its EU renegotiation to show so little support for its European partners," says the European Council on Foreign Relations.

The PM's comments come as the number of refugees arriving in Europe topped one million for the first time, laying bare the unparalleled scale of the crisis. 

"Nationalists and Eurosceptics have seized upon public fears about the influx of refugees in Europe," says the Law Society Gazette. "[But] simply leaving the EU would likely have little impact." 

It warns that refugees would be unaffected by a British exit from the union, as they covered by other international agreements, such as the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol.

"Second, while leaving the EU would in theory enable the UK to stem free movement from within the EEA and Switzerland, many experts believe that in practice some sort of quasi-free movement agreement with the rest of Europe would be necessary in order to access the Single Market."

 

Refugee crisis: UK asylum policy dividing up families

26 November

Britain's asylum policy is deliberately and permanently separating refugees from their loved ones, charities warn. 

The government is being urged to show more compassion to Syrian refugees who have entered the UK illegally to join their family members, the BBC reports.

"This winter many refugees face an agonising separation from their loved ones," says the Refugee Council. "We think that's unacceptable. Everyone has the right to live in safety with their families."

Under the Dublin regulation, refugees are required to claim asylum in the first EU country they arrive in.

But charities accuse the government of implementing these rules too strictly and deporting people to countries where they have no connections.

"It can use its discretion on compassionate grounds to offer sanctuary and asylum to people who have family connections," said Nazek Ramadan, the director of Migrant Voice. "But the government is being rigid and it's leading to many families being divided."

Marwan, a 33-year-old Syrian refugee, is among those the UK is planning on sending back to the country they first entered.

He fled Syria after being tortured by the Assad regime and arrived in Italy by boat before travelling to the UK illegally to join his brother and sister who were already here.

He said he has now been told that he must return to Italy, but his wife and children are still in Syria and he is desperate to bring them to safety in the UK.

"I've already spent nearly three years in this country. I don't have enough time to go back and start the whole process all over again, he said.

"What if I lost my family? If my children die in a war, what is the point of me living?"

But the Home Office insists that it "will not shoulder the burden” of asylum claims which should be processed by other EU countries.

"We firmly believe in the established principle of the Dublin regulation, that those in need of protection should seek asylum in the first safe country they enter," the government said.

But many, including Germany's Angela Merkel warn that Dublin approach is no longer working and argue that the burden of accepting hundreds of thousands of refugees cannot fall on just a few countries.

"[With] so many refugees are arriving at our external borders, we can't leave Italy or Greece alone to deal with this task," the German chancellor said recently.

British public 'losing support' for refugees after Paris attacks

18 November

Public support for allowing Syrian refugees to resettle in Britain appears to be waning in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, according to a new YouGov poll.

It found that 49 per cent of the 1688 people questioned believe that Britain should be accepting fewer or no refugees, representing a 22 per cent decline since October.

Do you think Britain should admit refugees fleeing war in Syria?    

 26-27 Oct   16-17 Nov

 

Britain should admit higher numbers than recently:
3620

 

Britain should keep the numbers coming here about the same:
2424

 

Britain should admit lower numbers than recently:
1323

 

Britain should not let anyone from this group come here at all:
1426

 

Don't know:
138

"It suggests that the support for refugees that built [up] after the death of Alan Kurdi has waned in the wake of the atrocities in Paris," says The Times.

However, the poll also shows that 44 per cent of Britons believe that Britain should accept the same number of Syrian refugees, or higher.

Scotland welcomed the first group of Syrian refugees yesterday, with politicians insisting that their arrival had widespread public support. MSP Humza Yousaf said it was a "proud day" for the country. 

"I would like to extend the warmest of welcomes on behalf of the people of Scotland to the refugees and wish them all the best as they start their new lives here," he said according to The National.

Yousaf said the response from the public had been "amazing" so far. "There are people from all walks of life in different parts of Scotland wanting to do what they can to help [the refugees]."

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has continued to attack Republicans who argue that the US should close its doors to refugees fleeing Syria because of the perceived threat to security.

"I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for Isil than some of the rhetoric that's been coming out of here during the course of this debate," he said according to The Guardian.

"It's counter-productive. And it needs to stop."

Paris attacks will have 'no effect' on UK plans to accept refugees

17 November

Scotland is preparing to welcome a group of 100 Syrian refugees today as part of the government's ongoing resettlement plan.

Britain has agreed to accept 20,000 refugees from camps in the Middle East over the next five years, with more than 1,000 due to arrive in the country before Christmas.

However, the recent terrorist attacks in Paris have raised security concerns among the public. "Obviously people in the street do have questions, especially after the news about the fake passport [in Paris]," Isobel Strong, SNP councillor for the Isle of Bute, told The Guardian.

"But my information is that these are families who are known to agencies and are simply seeking safety from a warzone," she said.

Stirling council, one of ten local authorities in Scotland that will be resettling refugees, said the terrorist attacks "will have no effect whatsoever" on its plan to welcome the families.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon echoed these views after observing a minute's silence at Glasgow central mosque on Monday. 

"We are due to welcome refugees to Scotland tomorrow and we need to show that we are a country of compassion and acceptance," she said

"These people are fleeing their homes in the search for protection and security, and we are their refuge. We cannot let the actions of the few destroy the safety of the many."

Home Secretary Theresa May has insisted that Britain will not let terrorists exploit the refugee crisis and new arrivals will have been thoroughly screened before they arrive in the UK.

Both the UN refugee agency and the Home Office will check the identity of every refugee using fingerprints, mug shots and other biometric tools, she told the Andrew Marr show.

The Paris attacks have provoked an altogether different response from politicians in the US. Several states have said they will block the arrival of Syrian refugees due to security concerns.

Alabama's governor has said that he "will not place Alabamians at even the slightest possible risk of an attack on our people." However, the legality of such action is still unclear, the BBC reports.

Their refusal to accept refugees fleeing conflict was immediately condemned by the president. "Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values," said Barack Obama.

"Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both."

 

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