Closure of the JUNGLE

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IN the face of the Calais authorities bulldozing the makeshift homes of hundreds of asylum seekers in the so-called jungle on the outskirts of the town Keith Best, IAS Chief Executive, who visited the jungle last month has warned that this measure will not see the problem go away.
Seven years ago when the British Home Secretary David Blunkett and the then French Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy congratulated themselves on the closure of the Red Cross centre at Sangatte – but the hundreds of asylum seekers merely moved to the dockside of Calais. “The liquidation of the jungle will have the same transitory effect. What is needed is a commitment by the French authorities at all levels to admit asylum seekers to their procedures promptly: at present it is very difficult to claim asylum in France as those to whom I spoke admitted. The French are not playing their part in allowing people to claim asylum in Calais, despite their obligation under the Refugee Convention.
“I was accompanied by a representative of UNHCR as well as by a Pushtu interpreter – yet most of the Afghans spoke English. They were a British Immigration Minister’s worse nightmare in that they all wanted to come to the UK but for the reason that they have friends and family here and speak English – the legacy of Britain’s involvement in that country for more than a century. If they could not claim asylum in the UK (and one of them had already been removed from the UK back to Afghanistan but had made the return journey in his determination) they were prepared to seek asylum in France – if only they were allowed to do so. They were all terrified of the Taliban and one of them had lost his right arm from the shoulder in the fighting.
“These people are young and resourceful. Most of them have had to pay smugglers to get them this far. Few have any papers so that the French cannot prove through which countries they have come and where, under the Dublin Convention, they should have claimed asylum. Yet under this Convention many of them would be regarded as properly being able to claim asylum in the UK on the basis of them having close relatives here.
“The only sensible solution to these problems is a proper burden sharing among all European countries. Britain must play its part as well. The current system is chaotic. Posturing politicians seeking a quick headline is not the sensible solution for which we are looking. If the French cannot do it then the UNHCR should be asked to determine the protection needs of these asylum seekers who have suffered so much in their long journey and also the country to which they should be admitted.
“I was disturbed to meet children aged 14, 15 and 16 in the jungle. Whatever their background and ability to exist in conditions akin to third world poverty this is no place for a child. We should be outraged.”
From IAS
CONTACT: Keith Best, Chief Executive
Telephone: 020 7967 1221 (office)
07785 323200 (mobile)
020 7735 7699 (home)
020 7378 9191
website: www.iasuk.org

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