This is a crowd-funded project and we desperately need help to finish it. I raised £20,000 and put in £4000 of my earnings, but need about £12,000 more to finish as we are trying to get all over France, and crew travel and gear costs plus editing costs have to be covered. Plus I’ve been buying coats scarves socks and shoes for the kids as a basic necessity, as many are literally without shoes and in the thin t-shirts they wore in Calais, now in minus temperatures.
As most people know Calais is the UK’s border. And yet 10,000 people were left there in the unofficial Jungle camp without their cases being processed – including an indeterminate number of unaccompanied minors – the youngest I met was 8. Over the last 2-3 months I along with other groups have battled to get these children at least named and recognised, especially as the camp was under threat of demolition. With crowd-funding help, I not only located over 160 children and filmed with many of them, I also got a team of volunteer human rights lawyers and social worker assessors to go to Calais to support them. Between myself and three other groups we were finally able to demonstrate the total number of under 18’s in camp was not 300, as the Home Office cynically/ignorantly reported, but almost 1600... Very many of these minors already have the right to be in UK under Dublin 3 provision; others offered a classic example of children who should be eligible under the Dubs Amendment.
We managed to get a steady number to UK, both as the camp was destroyed and after – that is since the French, who are extremely angry that UK has not accepted greater responsibility – have bussed the minors to “accommodations” all over France.
Since the Calais closure in November I have been travelling with my crew, and exclusively talked with them all over France, filming mostly undercover. I found some in relatively good care- but many others supposedly in care arrangements suitable for minors agreed between the British and French governments, are in many locations underfed, starving, freezing, and on hunger strike, and with no adult supervision at all. Many – including 11 and 12 year olds – have run away and will now never get their chance of safety or security.
It’s shocking to note that these are children who STILL HAVE A CASE TO BE IN THE UK – but with years of denial by the Home Office, followed by a shoddy deal with the French over the Calais closure, and botched and wilfully inadequate assessment processes (kids’ cases were being assessed by low-ranking officers with no translators on the bus as they left the camp) their hope for justice is slipping away every day.
They have rights that have not been heard. They are suffering deeply- most say even the Jungle was better as they had more ways and means than virtual imprisonment in remote French holding-pens where no-one feeds. clothes or supports them. This is the UK’s dirty little secret- paying the French to avoid properly processing the young people.
The Home Office says they have now closed their list for UK – see
But this must not happen until every child has been properly interviewed and got lasting decisions made, in accordance with human rights law. . . I know many who are still in very bad contusions in the French ‘holding accommodation’ who absolute qualify under Dublin 3 or current Dubs, even the restricted definition of Dubs that stands now.
There is pressure to keep going- a demonstration was held at the House of Lords last Tuesday 13th Dec 6-7pm, and there is a major court appeal which challenges the Home Office’s recent criteria for Dubs. (currently pretty much limited to Sudanese and Syrians under 16 only, plus anyone else under 12).
More than anything I need to keep getting to all the places where the young people are- many have my number and contact me by Whats App desperate for help- and that I can keep recording this tragic human rights cock-up and get this evidence out to the public and the government to get more of them to safety.
My last film Hamedullah the Road Home was used many times in court to argue against removing turned-18s to Afghanistan. Calais Children: A Case to Answer I expect to have a similar use: help take these cases to court and publicise, pressurise the Home Office to deal more promptly, justly and humanely with these young people on our doorstep.
As well as to get every Calais child a fair deal, this outcry is for the benefit the 85,000 lone and unsafe children in Europe who face battles such as this in now an in the future.
Please please help us complete the important work of trying to get these young people to safety, and bringing the UK government to account.
I have to raise £10,000 to complete this vital work. It’s winter. The kids are cold starving and confused. We can win the battle with help of our lawyer colleagues and I regularly get material onto ITV evening news:
Allegra Stratton’s report ‘Unaccompanied children in mini ‘jungle’ camps willing to risk lives travelling by lorry to the UK’ (ITV News, 16 December 2016)
PLEASE HELP! And you can be sure your contribution makes a difference!