Senior church leaders including ex-Archbishop of Canterbury tell Theresa May to welcome 400 refugee children to UK before Calais Jungle where they are trapped is razed to the ground
- Faith leaders have spoken out over treatment of child refugees in Calais
- They have called on Theresa May to act and allow 387 children into UK
- She needs to display ‘moral leadership’ and help those stuck in the Jungle
- Campaign groups say the children are legally eligible to live in Britain
Faith leaders, including former Archbishop Lord Rowan Williams, have called for action
Senior church leaders including a former Archbishop of Canterbury have blasted Theresa May for failing to allow hundreds of refugee children trapped in Calais to move to Britain.
In an outspoken letter to the Prime Minister, Lord Rowan Williams, senior bishops and Muslim and Jewish faith leaders last night urged her to display ‘moral leadership’ by immediately relocating nearly 400 vulnerable children eligible to live in the UK under EU and UK government rules.
They said Mrs May must ‘act now’ before the children are put at further risk when the infamous ‘Jungle’ camp is demolished, a development expected within days.
The initiative will ratchet up tensions between faith leaders and ministers over migration after a series of acrimonious clashes - though the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, recently blamed EU leaders for some of the crisis.
The letter from the faith leaders, obtained by The Mail on Sunday, referred to Mrs May’s party conference speech on Wednesday last week, in which the vicar’s daughter emphasised that governments could do good and act justly.
They said campaign group Citizens UK estimated there were 387 child refugees as young as eight stuck in Calais who should already have been given sanctuary in the UK.
These include 178 who have the right to come to Britain under EU rules because of their close family links with the UK, and a further 209 who are unaccompanied and eligible under an amendment to the Immigration Act.
The new letter stated: ‘They have fled conflict and persecution, are now stuck in Northern France, deeply traumatized and at great risk.’
It continued: ‘None of us want the Calais “Jungle” to exist. It is a stain on the conscience of both France and Britain.
Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler (left) and senior reform rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner (right) were among the faith leaders piling pressure on the Government
Raheemullah Oryakhel, 14, from Afghanistan, died trying to reach Britain. He fell as he tried to climb into a lorry
‘But in haste to clear it the need to protect children is even more paramount. During the last such demolition the charity Help Refugees documented that 129 children went missing. The time to act is now.’
Last month the UK’s anti-slavery commissioner Kevin Hyland warned that minors were turning to smuggling gangs amid frustration at delays on official routes for claiming asylum or joining relatives who are already in this country.
His warning came after a 14-year-old Afghan boy, Raheemullah Oryakhel, died trying to reach Britain. He fell as he tried to climb into a lorry. The youngster had a legal right to be in Britain and had applied to come to the UK ‘months ago’.
The teenager was described as ‘polite and gentle’ by friends and was said to be trying to join a brother already in Manchester. This gave him the right to travel to Britain but he had reportedly lost faith that it would happen.
Children’s charities say the boy’s death - one of 13 near the port this year alone - highlights the dangers asylum-seeking minors take each night.
The faith leaders, who include the Bishops of Durham, Manchester and Southwark as well as the Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain Harun Rashid Khan and the senior Reform rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, added: ‘From the Kindertransport to Kosovo, Britain has a proud history of responding with moral leadership in times of urgent humanitarian need.
‘The Government’s pledge to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees last year was an example of such leadership. We ask that you once again act in that tradition of moral leadership and protect the most vulnerable among us.’
Last month, campaigners including Truly Madly Deeply star Juliet Stevenson and EastEnders’ actress Ann Mitchell called on the Government to act.
The Home Office said: ‘The clearance of the camp in Calais is a matter for the French authorities, who also have primary responsibility for unaccompanied children in France.
'The UK Government has no jurisdiction to operate on French territory and can only contribute in ways agreed with the French authorities and in compliance with French and EU law.
‘The UK has made crystal clear its commitment to resettle vulnerable children under the Immigration Act and ensure those with links to the UK are brought here using the Dublin Regulation.
'We are continuing to work with the French Government and partner organisations to speed up mechanisms to identify, assess and transfer unaccompanied refugee children to the UK, where this is in their best interests.’
Campaign group Citizens UK estimated there were 387 child refugees as young as eight stuck in Calais who should already have been given sanctuary in the UK (stock image)
Last month, campaigners including Truly Madly Deeply star Juliet Stevenson and EastEnders’ actress Ann Mitchell called on the Government to act over the Calais Jungle (pictured)
FAITH LEADERS CALL FOR ACTION OVER REFUGEE CHILDREN ENTITLED TO COME TO UK BUT WHO ARE TRAPPED IN CALAIS
To the Prime Minister, Theresa May,
In your conference speech this week you said that ‘it’s time to remember the good that government can do’. You have committed your government to acting justly and, with your efforts to tackle modern day slavery, to protecting the most vulnerable.
The latest figures from Citizens UK show that right now, counted among the number of those most vulnerable, are 387 unaccompanied refugee children stranded in Calais while entitled to relocate safely to Britain.
The youngest child is just eight-years-old. They have fled conflict and persecution, are now stuck in Northern France, deeply traumatized and at great risk as well documented by the Anti-Slavery Commissioner you yourself appointed while Home Secretary. Just weeks ago Kevin Hyland wrote to you saying categorically that ‘It is absolutely unacceptable that these children are left in the camp at the disposal of the criminal networks and they continue risking their lives daily to reach the shores of the UK’.
Last month 14-year-old Raheemullah Oryakhel became the third boy to be killed, trying to reach his family here in Britain having lost hope in the legal route he was entitled to. Meanwhile despite Parliament passing the Dubs' amendment five months ago not a single lone child has been transferred under the scheme who would not have already been eligible under the terms of the Dublin III regulation.
We are now just days away from the start of the full demolition of the Calais camp. None of us want the Calais ‘Jungle’ to exist. It is a stain on the conscience of both France and Britain. But in haste to clear it the need to protect children is even more paramount. During the last such demolition the charity Help Refugees documented that 129 children went missing.
The time to act is now.
We call on you and your government to ensure that prior to any demolition every single child of the 387 identified as eligible for transfer by Citizens UK is transferred to Britain, to either reunite with their families or reach the sanctuary envisioned in the Dubs amendment, while every other child should receive appropriate protection in France. In the long term surely a system of specially designated children’s centres, well away from the Calais region where children can be accommodated and have their claims for relocation assessed is not beyond us either.
From the Kindertransport to Kosovo, Britain has a proud history of responding with moral leadership in times of urgent humanitarian need. The Government’s pledge to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees last year was an example of such leadership. We ask that you once again act in that tradition of moral leadership and protect the most vulnerable among us.
Lord Williams of Oystermouth, former Archbishop of Canterbury
Harun Rashid Khan, Secretary-General, Muslim Council of Britain
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to the Movement of Reform Judaism
Rabbi Janet Darley, Liberal Judaism
The Right Rev Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham
The Right Rev David Walker, Bishop of Manchester
The Right Rev Peter Hill, Bishop of Barking
The Right Rev Adrian Newman, Bishop of Stepney
The Right Rev Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark
Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild
Rabbi Richard Jacobi, Co-chair, Rabbinic Conference of Liberal Judaism
Reverend David Musgrave, Inter faith coordinator, London District of the Methodist Church
Reverend Nigel Cowgill, London District Chair, The Methodist Church
Rabbi David Mitchell, West London Synagogue
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