The Children of Calais

Hope is a powerful ideal. It is a catalyst of unity and an engine for perseverance. The story of Chanukah revolves around hope; it is a tale of light consuming darkness and faith exceeding adversity. But even hope is not ubiquitous. For the refugees currently living in Calais, hope is a precious commodity and disbelief plagues their vocal currency.

This is the key message that Sue Clayton’s moving documentary: ‘Calais Children: A Case to Answer’ outlines. The film follows several child refugees attempting to navigate the taxing conditions of the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp whilst fruitlessly scaling the stubborn bureaucratic wall of UK immigration laws.

Last week, we were honoured to host Sue and screen her movie. We were introduced to individuals like Yemane, a 16 year old from Eretria who is alone in the Jungle. All Yemane wants is to be reunited with his uncle in the UK, but his claims for asylum aren’t accepted. He ultimately sustains heavy injury after attempting an illegal crossing into the UK on the back of a truck.

As I watched these scenes unfurl, my mind kept panning back to the ideals that the story of Chanukah endorses; a light that cannot be put out, a faith that rides high above all. Sue's film evokes a realisation that, although the hope in the eyes of these children was irrepressible; their fate is blind.

There is neither logic nor sense to the status-quo in Calais. Whilst the ‘Jungle’ has been demolished the crisis it housed remains. Charities working in Calais estimate between 700-800 refugees, including 200 unaccompanied children, are still in the area, mostly sleeping rough without shelter.

In her Q&A, Sue outlined the massive amount of work that still needs doing; the gap that lies between the rights that these children are entitled to and the realities they currently face.

I’d like to thank everyone who came last week; it was amazing to see so many people support such an important cause. Thanks to their efforts we were able to raise almost £3,000, as well as boxes full of winter supplies which will be spent and relocated to those left in the biting cold of Northern France. We are proud to say that the first delivery of clothes and donations has already made its way to Calais. James, our contact at Care4Calais, has given an account of current conditions in the camp;

“Calais was grey, wet and cold. The authorities no longer allow tents. Small groups of young men huddle together. When we stopped our van to hand out coats to half a dozen refugees, others emerged from nowhere as two van loads of armed police arrived on the scene. They took our passports and kept us for half an hour but not before we had distributed the coats. Send my thanks to everyone who's donated; there's still so much more that needs doing.”

There are legal structures already in place that, if implemented properly by our government, could see the UK welcome a third of the 2,000 unaccompanied minors currently in Northern France. Our efforts, successful as they may have been, are short-term remedies in a larger struggle for the rights of refugees.

Coats make a difference, but real, sustained warmth will only come through safe refuge.

Calais is still cold: Click here to donate to our Coats4Calais appeal.