Hope everyone is well, and thanks so much again for your continued comments and support!
You have all been very generous- as this story has taken a further (and hopefully soon, final! ) twist,
Here is a further update- as you may have read, two weeks ago the Home Office declared the ‘Calais Children’ operation to be over and the French centres temporarily housing the minors all over France, are being closed between now and end Feb. Many of the minors have already run away: This is mainly because either (as prior reports) they were being underfed, subject to racism and in some documented cases even bullied and attacked by (untrained) staff; or because since they’ve told theyre not going to UK , they have made their way back to the north, where they still against all odds seem to think the Jungle would be there, or a jungle would be there…
For those who have relatives in UK (Dublin 3) they feel utterly betrayed as their cases were simply missed. I personally through this work have come across 17 kids in such a situation. Luckily Ive been able to get 2 of them so far on TV (see below) and Duncam Lewis our legal partner have taken several on pro bono.
This week in response to pressure from all of us, th Home Office has agreed to re-open the Dublin 3 cases. So that is a major victory and hope all our 17 will now make it, in addition to the 14 already here directly because of this Calais Chidlren campaign. (One of these as previously noted here, was found on arrival to be suffering from a serious heart condition and has since been operated on and recovered, now living happily with foster mum in Hounslow 🙂 And many others, if only they can be found and legally represneted…! (ou see why the work never ends. having rights means nothing if you dont have a topped up phone and a lawyer, sad to say).
The rest- those without relatives, who ought to have been considreed under Dubs, are nos stuck in France. The irony is that if we cant get them in under Dubs they may well be better off claing asylum in France at least for now, but very few are, as their experience of France is up to a year of Jungle in which they were fired at with rubber bullets and tear gassed by the French on a nightly basis. Notwithstanding that the CRS doing this were directy paid for by the UK, this makes the kids perceive France as a hostie and aggressive place, not somewhere they want to stay.
So out of the 1200 that were confirmed as having been put on the buses out from the Jungle on Nov 2nd, a couple of hundred were finally accepted by the UK but a large fruther number were lost, as above. Those that remained in the centres have been told by the French authorities that they must apply to stay in France or be made instantly homeless- this has led to a further stream of young people either homeless in remote corners of France, or again heading back to Calais area.
I have managed to keep filming all of this through your support: In Calais, in secret hideouts and safe houses; In Brussels, where some have gne and are sleeping rough; and in the South (Pyrenes Orientales) where they are soon to be made homeless- and its still heavy snow and been up to minus 12. Also I have been taken on for days as consultant producer for BBC South East (Inside Out) , for ITV News as before (see report on 11 Feb) , and last week for Channel 4 News. The daily fee I get for doing this I put into the CALAIS CHILDREN film budget. And its great to be getting the story out nationally too. In due course I’ll put all the links on the website. Also C4 News has run some of our footage- of the boys In St Denis de Cabanne in a Jon Snow piece 2 weeks ago, and then last Friday 17th Feb, a Simon Israel piece on the young people in Perles-et-Castelet- both of whom Ive been following for months now , and shots of others back in Calais.
My overall view: there are now confirmed to be 5-600 kids back in Calais and not only are they sleeping rough, they are being hounded by police and CRS. Every time Ive been in Calais Ive been stopped and detained for questioning, and the kdsi arent even safe any moe to walk from A to B. Most shockingly I was told by the police there is now ‘zero tolerance” of refugees and they can in theory “walk about ” (though even thats not true, they arrest them for up to 4 days and detain them in St Omer) but not “s’installer” that is, have a place to stop or sleep…. when I said, “so they must walk forever then” they said, “yes exactly.” JESUS. Its insanity. There have also been reports in the French press of French citizens being prosecuted for aiding them (Somoene taking 3 Eritrean girls to hosptial was fined 30,000 Euros and suspned jail sentemce last week). Even religious houses offering night shelter are being raided.
So filming in Calais has been lke occupied France… Getting kids quick from pillar to post.,under contsnt atack. One boy I filmed with a lot was hit on the road near Hasbrouk and had both his legs broken. There were fears he may have to have them amputated but luckily now that seems unlikely He is now in hopsital in Lille. I proised to go visit him and take his two close friends to see him. It became like a covert operation- as I dont frive, couldnt take the boys on the train Calis to lille as armed cops all over the stations. I had to get a local supporter to drive us very low profile and be wary of police stops, and police questioning us. Glad to share this with all of you, as Calais feels really lke wartime if yorue working with these kids now.
There is a Solidarity protest sleepover at Parliament area tonight (Speeches from 8, ive been invited to gvei one on this work) and another petition going in to Downing St tomorrow 9 am . There is a march n Saturday- I’ll send links or it is all on news and social meida.