Update 4th April

Dear all

A quick update on the film for those who are interested.

As you know, over the winter the French authorities kept the minors in accommodation all over France- some great, some appalling- and the agreement was that UK Home Office would go to all of these centres and do proper assessments of the young people and their claims (all of which could have been done up to year before in the Jungle…)

However we have evidence that most of the interviews lasted for 5 minutes or less, and were conducted without interpreters present.(This is someone’s whole life, and there are few alternatives for them..)

While a few were brought to UK in the winter period, many with a strong Dublin 3 claim (close family in the UK ) were overlooked. Those without family, who ought to have qualified under the Dubs Amendment, were entirely  ignored -the Home Office having drastically (and, we argue, unlawfully) limited the scope of Dubs in November last year, precisely to avoid having to take many children.

(There are 85,000 unaccompanied minors in Europe- Dubs would have at least provided safety to 3000 and taken the pressure off other EU states).

In Feb 2017 the French gave up on the UK pathetic effort, and closed the centres they’d made available all winter, leaving 1200 kids and young people in limbo (And some, in the mountains  in extreme cold and distress). The latest situation is that over 600 of them have made their way back to Calais, as the only place that’s familiar to them.They all feel that promises made to them by the British in the last days of the Jungle were not kept.

And Calais is now a very different place- almost like a militarised  zone. More info below,which I wrote up as a skeleton for the last part of the film. See also May Bulman’s piece in the Independent for which I supplied info and images: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/child-refugees-france-uk-new-market-smugglers-traffickers-a7622656.html

I have committed to get the film finished by early June, for reasons below. Please do help support us in the last lap-we are busy trying to get over 40 hours of material in 6 other languages translated; buying in key archive footage; editing and sound-editing – as well as keeping in regular touch with up to 50 young people in France and Belgium, getting them phone credit, getting them basics they need to survive,  getting them lawyers where we can. One boy, E, had both his legs broken on the road , and I have been supporting him in hospital in Lille. Others are living in rat-infested woods and squats in Calais, and have been  getting them clothes and sleeping bags- thanks Amir Amirani! !And trying to keep in touch.  Plus as ever working with the lawyers.

We have to get this abuse of asylum law through the courts and we won’t stop.

Many of you have contributed very generously, but please do consider sharing this among your contacts -as we need to raise the last £5000 or so.   ( I began expecting to film for a month and make a short, now been doing it for 6 months, the film will be 60 minutes! but the end is in sight- the inquiry and the court case, is the right time to bring the film out to influence the outcome. Also I am staring to get the film sold to UK and European TV . (If I do,we will put any revenues after all costs paid, back into the campaign.)

The address for the film donations is www.calais.gebnet.co.uk and the Facebook page is Calais Children.

All very best and thanks again for making the film, happen. I feel privileged to have been able to stay on it for 6 months, its a story that needed telling in depth It highlights issues much broader-UK after Brexit-human rights law- basic humanitarian principles that should not be lost.

Sue xx

UPFDATE INFO ON CALAIS:

Calais has changed beyond recognition. The Mayor of Calais has long opposed the British failure to deal with the its own border issues, and enforces zero tolerance for returnees. The Jungle site is a flat empty field, with heavy police presence. Riot Police and CRS patrol the streets, cafes and stations. It’s like an occupied town.

Any returning refugee, even children, are arrested for simply being there.

On March 2nd, it’s made a ‘crime of solidarity’ for Calais citizens or aid workers to give food or shelter to a refugee, even a child. Children are sleeping out in the woods, often tear gassed while asleep. We follow Utopia 56, a charity that dives out after midnight to feed children in the woods, in defiance of the Police ban.

J runs a Catholic ‘safe house’- though even it gets raided. He says of the 600 lone children now back in Calais, less than 40 have a bed at night. R, 12, Eritrean, who I met in Le Havre, has made it to the safe house. He has an aunt in the UK and should be with her, but like others has been overlooked as a Dublin 3 case. He shivers with fear if he steps outside the house. What future has he now?

In March 2017, the Home Secretary Amber Rudd sneaked an announcement into a Parliament focussed on the Brexit debate, announcing the final number of acceptees   the Dubs Amendment.  From Dubs’ initial proposal that 3000 minors without family should be brought to the UK  from France, Rudd stepped down to only 200 from Calais- those already taken in Autumn 2016, and no more.

There was no recognition of the tortuous process the young people had been put through due to failed UK promises.- incarcerated in  the containers, sent into a winter of exile and starvation to wait for assessments that never happened, excluded from Dubs when the government narrowed its terms to discriminate  by race.  Rudd also sought a motion to scrap the Dubs Amendment entirely as ‘the crisis was over.”  Protests were held and a vote in Parliament saved the Amendment, but as long as it is applied by the Home Office in such a vastly limited and cynical way, it is a hollow victory indeed.

Meanwhile in Calais  the children have no option but the deadly cat-and-mouse game with police and CRS, while every night making ever more desperate attempts to reach the truck-stops and the port. Y, 16, from Syria  talks about freezer trucks being the best option- police cannot detect body heat thought of course risks are high. Access is now more than ever controlled by traffickers and gangs. JL, Afghan,says they try to leave Calais every night  “but north of the port there are Iraqis with knives, asking us for money. South there are Romanians with guns.” There have been stabbings, and E from Eritrea, with whom I’ve filmed a lot, had both his legs smashed when run over by vehicle – he may not walk again.

Others have left, disappeared, gone forever. A, Sudanese, is now in Belgium, sleeping with drunks and addicts on the street. He says “I am 14 and my life is over.” Others are in city ghettos, living rough, prey to traffickers and abusers.

This film began by my exploring whether the children of Calais have  legal case to be in the UK. My findings were that a great many die, either under the Dublin 3 Regulation because they had family members in the UK, or under Dubs as particularly vulnerable young people alone in Europe. Over 6 months we have seen their Dublin 3 claims ignored and thrown aside, and we have seen a cynical  dismantling of the Dubs Amendment to limit the scope and spirit of what it was designed to protect some of the most vulnerable young people in Europe.

In June 2017, both our court case ZS and Others, and two other major challenges go to the High Court to dispute the shoddy outcome that has left children suffering and stranded. A cross-party Parliamentary inquiry is going to be conducted to see what went wrong.

This film will be prime evidence for both.

Author: Sue

Sue Clayton is a feature and documentary film maker. She has worked on various child and youth asylum projects over 15 years, consulting and producing news stories for ITV and BBC . Her award-winning independent film Hamedullah: The Road Home www.hamedullahtheroadhome.com has been screened at over 200 activist and debate events, and is regularly shown in UK Immigration Courts and in the Upper Tribunal cases as evidence that forced removal of young people to Kabul is not, as the Home Office says, safe. She is also creating an archive of interviews with young asylum seekers in the UK see www.bigjourneys.org and she works with a ESRC-funded research team researching best outcomes for young asylum seekers www.uncertainjourneys.org.uk

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