Calais: Refugees - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:37 pm on 2nd November 2017.

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Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Immigration) 3:37 pm, 2nd November 2017

My Lords, a production at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival, a diorama about two young refugees from Afghanistan, depicted the police in northern France as huge aggressive birds. It was very powerful. We must thank the big-hearted people who still present a human face in Calais, as the noble Baroness said. They come back from helping refugees, appalled that the French police pepper spray babies’ nappies, as one example. They ask for donations not of tents but blankets, because they can be salvaged in the face of wanton, “nonsensical”—as one of the NGOs put it—violence by the police.

Reports by Refugee Rights, the Human Trafficking Foundation and others make very grim reading. I hope the Minister can tell us what discussions British authorities are having with the French regarding what I describe as an international humanitarian issue in northern France. Will she also update us on the Government’s thinking about whether there is any evidence—I stress evidence—of a pull factor bringing refugees to northern France seeking to reach the UK, as distinct from the many significant push factors? Indeed, is it in anyone’s interest not to apply Dublin III except those of the traffickers, other abusers and criminals?

In the case of children without adult guardians, not enabling their reunion with family—“family” being rather wider than just parents—in the UK is exposing them to considerable dangers. It is a matter of the rules and of ensuring they have access to advice about the rules through facilities and outreach work. The current situation is not “safeguarding”. To ask the same question in different words: why not safe and legal routes that are managed and regular?