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Like most people, I’m often immune to tales of refugees, travelling across the world, taking huge risks, desperate to find a better life. Human tragedy is normalised by the constant images and reports from wars and famines and disease across the globe.
But I have just returned from Calais, where I saw that human tragedy up close. It brought reality into sharp focus. Thousands of people fleeing war and persecution are being denied even the most basic human rights just beyond our border. I urge anyone who can, to go and see for themselves.
Our Government is going to extreme lengths to avoid helping. A Court of Appeal ruling yesterday found the Government’s reasons for refusing asylum to child refugees were “patently inadequate”. However, the cap on children taken under the Dubs scheme was upheld, and so far only 280 have been accepted by the UK. My constituency contains Lunar House, where child refugee claims are processed, and our Croydon community has been hugely supportive of refugees. So this issue is close to home.
But the eyes of the world have moved away from Calais. The refugee camps in Greece are larger and more desperate, the conflicts in Syria and the Yemen, the plight of the Palestinians and the Rohingya Muslims are rightly making headlines. But the more time I spent on the ground, the clearer it became: we are sleepwalking into another crisis at Calais. A crisis that we hold a shared responsibility for, and we are not responding to. A crisis that will only get worse as winter sets in.
A few things really brought it home. Firstly, the sheer numbers of people and the speed they are growing. We took food to 1,300 people who are sleeping in the woods near Dunkirk. Over 100 people had arrived in since the previous day’s meals were distributed. Even volunteers who had been there for years were shocked.
The increase in women and children is particularly harrowing. Since the ‘Jungle’ camp was dismantled, the refugees staying…