Use the law to es­cape ‘the Jun­gle’

A visit to the Calais refugee camp re­veals the press­ing need for a le­gal so­lu­tion

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY LAURA JANNER-KLAUS­NER Rabbi Laura Janner-Klaus­ner is Se­nior Rabbi to Re­form Ju­daism. She led a joint mis­sion to Calais this week with Imam Qari Muham­mad Asim, from Leeds Makkah Mosque

THREE MEN from Su­dan com­muning around a por­ta­ble stove beck­oned us over and in­sisted we eat with them. They made us their guests, although their ram­shackle can­vas neigh­bour­hood is barely any kind of home.

The men live in the so-called “Calais Jun­gle”, housed in tents, cor­ru­gate­d­iron shacks and other forms of tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion. We were hum­bled when they in­vited us to be­come ush­pizim, guests, on this bit­ingly cold evening dur­ing Suc­cot.

It is hard to ig­nore the para­dox of this role re­ver­sal. On Suc­cot, Jews welcome guests into our tem­po­rary dwellings. Res­i­dents of the Jun­gle, from coun­tries in­clud­ing Syria, Eritrea and Afghanistan, want to live in Bri­tain and en­joy the refuge that so many of us owe our lives to. Yet here they were of­fer­ing us, unan­nounced Bri­tish Jewish guests, their hos­pi­tal­ity. We couldn’t ac­cept their food — it would have felt grossly un­fair.

The peo­ple seek­ing sanc­tu­ary on our shores need more than our com­pas­sion. They need more than pop­u­lar sup­port in favour of gov­ern­ment ac­cept­ing more refugees. They need what we do not have yet: a so­lu­tion ap­pro­pri­ate to the le­gal re­al­ity of their sit­u­a­tion. Euro­pean leg­is­la­tion and Bri­tish de­ci­sion-mak­ing means there is no le­gal way for the peo­ple we met to en­ter the UK. Asy­lum-seek­ers have to be pro­cessed in the first coun­try they en­ter, while Bri­tain has no ad­e­quate fa­cil­ity for pro­cess­ing refugees off its shores. Air­lines and ship­ping com­pa­nies must pay for re­jected asy­lum-seek­ers to re­turn home. They will not risk this, so there is no le­gal or safe pas­sage for refugees into Europe. This is why at least two peo­ple died in Calais this week.

The gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse of fly­ing 20,000 refugees over five years from Le­banon will not solve this cri­sis. It is too few and ig­nores the pres­ence of peo­ple seek­ing sanc­tu­ary in Bri­tain on our doorstep.

We have to recog­nise our role in the Euro­pean refugee cri­sis. This does not mean open­ing our doors un­con­di­tion­ally, but it means find­ing safe and le­gal ways for asy­lum seek­ers al­ready in Europe to have their cases heard. We have to es­tab­lish a pres­ence in Calais and be­come part of a co-or­di­nated in­ter­na­tional re­sponse. No one should have to risk their life to merely be­gin an asy­lum process in Bri­tain.

As Jews, we have done our­selves proud in the level of sol­i­dar­ity with refugees, but now we need more than sen­ti­ment and short-term stick­ing plas­ters. We need a long-term le­gal process.


Un­less a way of is found to process the claims of asy­lum seek­ers in Europe, camps like “the Jun­gle” won’t dis­ap­pear

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