Safe Home At Last

by Gerry Lynch last modified 30 Oct, 2017 03:05 PM

Bishop Nicholas hosts parliamentary reception for young refugees building a new life

Bishop Nicholas has hosted a reception in parliament for young people who were brought to Britain from the Calais Jungle after parliament passed a law to bring them directly from camps in Europe.

About 20 teenage refugees from countries including Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Eritrea and Sudan were at the event, where they spoke of beginning to learn English and restarting their education. They also presented a plaque to Lord Dubs, campaigning prompted the government to commit to bringing lone children from camps in Europe to the UK. Dubs came to Britain as a refugee from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, one of 669 children saved by English stockbroker Nicholas Winton in the famous Kindertransport.

The new plaque reads: “We thank the British people and parliament for giving us peace. We found a beautiful life in the UK, so different to the life we fled. We were suffering, but now we are safe.”

Bishop Nicholas said, “It was a privilege to host this group of youngsters who had lived in the Calais Jungle and welcome them to Parliament.

“My sense is that the country knows we can do more, and that we have a moral responsibility to other unaccompanied minors.

“The young people I met are amongst the most courageous and determined in the world but this meeting was not only about who they are. It was about who we are and whether we are a hospitable, determined and welcoming people.

“The presence of Lord Dubs, who had come to Britain in the Kindertransport, was testimony to the contributions these young people will make.”

The Guardian reported a conversation with one of the young people, Farhad, an 18-year-old from Afghanistan, who been told he would be returned to Kabul.

“I left my country because when I was 15 I had two choices, either join Daesh [Islamic State] or the Taliban, or leave,” he said. “My mother and I decided I had to leave. I didn’t want to go and fight.”

Farhad spent almost a year on the move from his home country across Europe, eventually spending six months in the Calais refugee camp.

“It was a really, really bad situation and very dangerous. In my country, we don’t have anything,” he said, pausing several times during his speech to MPs because he was overwhelmed with emotion.

“In Calais it was the winter. We had no blankets, nothing to eat, trying every night to get in lorries and get to this country. Now I have two years here, but then I have to return to Kabul.

They say it is safe, but it’s a war zone. I don’t know what to do.”

Beth Gardiner-Smith, a senior campaigns organiser for Safe Passage, a refugee rights organisation, said the charity feared there was “no longer a sense of urgency about what is still a crisis”.

Since the Calais camp was demolished last year, many refugees are still sleeping rough in the woods and about 280 local authority places offered for refugee children remained unfilled, Gardiner-Smith said. In April, the government agreed to taking in 480 unaccompanied refugee minors under the scheme.

“We’re talking about vulnerable young people who are scared and losing faith in a system that is legal and instead risking their lives attempting dangerous routes,” she said.

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