Displaying items by tag: asylum seekers
Days after 27 people drowned in the English Channel, the BBC discovered that smuggling gangs are still telling migrants it is safe to cross. One smuggler said that the drownings were a lie and that there was no danger in making the journey. The brutal journeys migrants make across the Channel are full of stories of crisis. Pray for the detection and removal of the guerrilla-style smuggling operations among the French dunes. Pray for authorities to have more compassion for the streams of soaking passengers washing ashore in Kent. Pray for this international criminal industry to be thwarted by even more sophisticated detection. Pray for an end to the supply of specially-made boats that refugees are packed into. New arrivals in French camps are given tips on how to find a people-smuggler. One young man from Afghanistan was told to look for ‘the Kurdish man’ hanging around during food distribution.
Syrian refugee and aid worker Yusra Mardini went on trial on 18 November with over two dozen other aid workers from various countries, for helping migrants reach Greece between 2016 and 2018. The defendants face charges including forgery, espionage, and the unlawful use of radio frequencies. Human rights groups have condemned the trial as being politically motivated; Amnesty International called the charges ‘farcical’ and said they should never have come to trial. If found guilty, the aid workers could face five-year prison sentences. Some remain under investigation for a number of other felonies, including human smuggling, which could lead to further sentences of up to 25 years. Irishman Sean Binder said, ‘I am happy to defend myself; I know I did nothing wrong, and we can prove that. I am charged with crimes that I am supposed to have committed a year before I was ever on Lesbos.’ STOP PRESS: the trial has been suspended, but will now be heard by an appeal court.
Kasia Wappa lives by Poland’s national park where a humanitarian crisis is unfolding on a scale not seen since World War 2. She is part of a network trying to save emaciated Middle Eastern immigrants who have been emerging from the wilderness since September. Most had spent days without food or water and were suffering from hypothermia and exhaustion. Some were sick from drinking swamp water. Kasia began by donating warm clothes, and now helps rescue parties retrieve lost and starving people from the woods. But the flow of migrants has increased, and she warns that many probably never make it. Ten deaths have been confirmed, and they have rescued many on the verge of dying. The Polish government has built a three-kilometre deep security cordon the length of its Belarus border to curb illegal immigration. All reporters are banned, creating a media blackout to hide the scale of the crisis. Rescuers now behave like insurgents, operating at night and evading police patrols.
Officials have started moving asylum-seekers to a new migrant camp on the island of Samos, Zervou, despite activists complaining that access controls are too harsh. A double barbed-wire fence surrounds the camp with surveillance cameras, X-ray scanners and magnetic doors. During the 2015/16 migrant crisis the previous camp on Samos sheltered 7,000 asylum-seekers despite its capacity being just 680. Campaigners had long denounced conditions there as deplorable. On 20 September at Zervou’s entrance police lined up the first residents, checking for weapons or dangerous objects. Asylum personnel handed out bedsheets and showed the migrants how to use the gate's magnetic entry cards. The new Samos facility is the first of several such camps on five Greek islands created with EU funds. All the ‘closed controlled’ camps can only be entered via fingerprint scans and electronic badges. Gates will remain closed at night and disciplinary measures await those who return after 8 pm.
Christians and others are being encouraged to welcome a refugee or asylum-seeker into their homes as part of a new initiative. The Hospitality Pledge was launched this week and will work with international charities and the church to speak up for the displaced. It's being led by Dr Krish Kandiah with the aim of encouraging people to offer sanctuary to those who are persecuted or fleeing conflict as offering sanctuary is at the heart of the Gospel. ‘Christians are called to show mercy and compassion to those that are in need. Jesus once said, I was a stranger, and you welcomed me. In welcoming, to the least of those in our society is a demonstration of the love and compassion of Jesus. Right now our nation has an interesting relationship with asylum and welcoming refugees.’ Dr Kandiah assured enquirers that there will be a lot of support available for anyone who decides to accommodate a refugee or asylum-seeker.
Kent county council is refusing to accept any more unaccompanied child migrants, after warning its services were at breaking point for the second time in less than a year. The county is locked in a battle with the Home Office, and has issued legal proceedings against the home secretary, saying the level of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the county had reached ‘unsafe’ levels. Kent’s cabinet member for integrated children’s services said the council had taken the move as it was clear that the Home Office did not intend to use existing powers to direct other local authorities to receive their fair share of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Kent has nearly double the number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in care that the government says it is safe to have.
Last year over 8,500 people crossed the Channel in small boats to the UK. The Home Office plans to make it much tougher for those who enter the UK illegally to claim asylum. They will no longer have the same entitlements as those who arrive legally. The Government wants to deter organised criminal networks who attempt to smuggle thousands of men, women, and children into Britain. Under the new plans, refugees who come to the UK through the government's official resettlement program will get indefinite leave to remain once they arrive. Those who arrive illegally, but still manage successfully to claim asylum, will receive a new ‘temporary protection status’ rather than an automatic right to settle. The Kent Refugee Action Network charity said that far from solving the problem the new ‘deliberately divisive policy’ will ‘make people think that there are good refugees, who do the right thing, and bad refugees, who don't do the right thing’.
‘The boat is our only chance for a new life in a safe country’, said Kamal, an Iranian Christian convert who has been in Calais for 10 days with his wife Niki and their baby daughter Sava. ‘I am too tired to carry on. If they try to stop us I will drown myself’. Over 4,600 people have crossed the Dover Strait on small boats so far this year, with increased surveillance and coronavirus travel restrictions having effectively closed the more popular method of hiding in vehicles. With inflamed UK rhetoric, the UK's immigration minister is discussing ‘new, comprehensive action plans’ to stem channel crossings. Priti Patel plans to use warships to intercept migrant vessels, but a MoD official said it’s ‘completely potty, inappropriate and disproportionate’. Kamal has lost everything since leaving Iran three years ago. They were incarcerated with 300 others after seeking refuge in Slovenia, where their savings were lost to the mafia.
Marvin Rees, the mayor of Bristol, has urged residents to take asylum-seekers into their homes so that they don't end up living on the streets during a housing crisis. He has given his support to a scheme whereby volunteers host refugees in their spare bedrooms - adding that the city should be a place 'where everyone feels welcome and safe'. The city council has provided housing for a number of asylum-seekers during the coronavirus pandemic, covering the cost, but the arrangement is due to finish. The charity Bristol Hospitality Network (BHN) has asked for twenty volunteers to offer a room for three months or more. The network provides accommodation and board to destitute asylum-seekers, and has helped to host over 100 people from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan since 2009, giving them the safety and security to rebuild their lives in the UK. Refugees are evicted from Home Office accommodation 21 days after being refused.
Lockdown has been challenging for young asylum-seekers. Ali used wi-fi at the college he attended to contact his family back home, but in lockdown this has not been possible. With little money, he is unable to afford internet access, leaving him isolated. But a non-profit theatre company called Compass Collective (CC) have been providing young asylum-seekers with data packages so they can stay in touch with their families and also access virtual creative workshops. Ali and other young refugees used the workshops to stay connected and to rehearse their acting and singing skills for a film that was streamed nationally on Refugee Day. CC also connects organisations and develops partnerships, collaborating with charities like the British Red Cross and theatres such as the Globe to offer a platform for cultural sharing and celebration in a social environment; building their confidence, developing life skills and reaching their potential. See https://www.compasscollect.com/about-compass