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Barbara Winton and Kindertransport survivors speak out

Barbara Winton, the daughter of Nicholas Winton who organised the rescue of hundreds of refugee children in WW2 has written a letter for our website together with kindertransport survivors asking us to show the same compassion now, as we did then.

Barbara Winton

In 1938/39 a large scale British humanitarian operation brought 10,000 children, endangered by Hitler’s growing threat, from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia to safe homes in the UK.  In Czechoslovakia many were refugees who had fled Germany or the Sudetenland, the borderlands handed over to Hitler in the Munich Agreement of September 1938 in return for “peace in our time”.  Despite some disgruntled voices, much like today, protesting the dangers of allowing into our country those from such foreign cultures, the overwhelming response was one of compassion and warmth.  Many families volunteered to foster a child and others made donations to support the operation.  Even at a time when city evacuations were being planned for British children, homes were found for these vulnerable young refugees.

Now, 77 years later, vulnerable young refugees again seek the kindness and welcome that British people previously offered.  Those who have travelled across Europe to Calais, to escape the life-threatening dangers of their home country, are hoping desperately to find the sanctuary their parents dared to believe Britain would once again offer. 

My father, Nicholas Winton, witnessed the appalling conditions children were enduring in the refugee camps in Czechoslovakia in 1939 and determined to give them the chance of a better, safer life by bringing them to Britain.  Many of those children went back to Czechoslovakia after the war.  Others, whose families had been murdered by the Nazis, remained in Britain and became valuable, integrated citizens, contributing to the well-being of the nation. It is estimated that there are 6000 people alive today all across the world due to that rescue.

In recent years since the story of what my father achieved became public, he has been honoured and praised for the stand he took and the lives he rescued.  Though he appreciated the accolades for his earlier work, he remained focussed on the most pressing issues of the day.  He continued to act and help others throughout his life and believed that actively assisting those in need was the most rewarding and ethical way to live.  Therefore I believe that the most appropriate way of honouring his memory would be to show the same concern and compassion he did then, for those in danger and in need now.

 

Eve Leadbeater

I am an 85 year-old who, in July 1939, arrived in the UK as an unaccompanied child fleeing the Nazis. I had no family here. In the last few months I have been putting myself in the place of those unaccompanied children in Calais fleeing their own horrors; the contrast with my own experience has left me distressed and in tears.

In 1939 I was rescued through the timely planning of Sir Nicholas Winton and the compassion of a ordinary primary-school teacher who responded to his appeal for support and took me in. Today, the last-minute scramble to organise the transfer of some of the Calais children and the animosity against immigrants that has increased since the referendum have been shocking. In 2016 do we live in the same country that welcomed me in 1939?

I keep thinking what those unaccompanied children could contribute to the UK. As an honest, hard-working British citizen since 1945, I hope I have repaid some of my debt to this country by teaching children in secondary schools and working as a charity volunteer in my retirement. Let’s have faith in what the Calais children could contribute in the future!

 

Dr Lisa Midwinter

I was one of a few very lucky few children who came to the UK in May 1939 thanks to Sir Nicholas Winton’s organisation of emergency evacuation trains from Prague to London. If it hadn’t been for the generosity of the then British Government I would have perished in Auschwitz concentration camp with the rest of my family. I studied to become a Community Dental Officer and looked after children from many Comprehensives schools and helped parents of Mentally and Physically handicapped children. Recently I took part in a film called the Winton Children documentary thanking people for their help during the Second World War. I strongly feel that if the British people were so generous in 1939 we must urgently help the Calais refugee children now.

At the time of writing there are still over 1,000 unaccompanied children living in the CAP containers in the Calais camp. (28.10.16, 17.00 GMT) 

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Third/Fourth Day Calais Eviction Update

 26th

Registration of children ended at 1pm. The reason is unclear.

At noon, the prefecture reported that there were ‘no migrants left in camp and that the operation to clear the camp was being completed.’  This was picked up by some UK and French press, despite teams and media on the ground putting out live evidence to the contrary.

50% of shelters were left standing at this point and 50% were destroyed.

NIGHT OF 26-27th

Last night, dozens of children slept on the cold ground in front of the containers they were supposed to be housed in. Another 40 slept in a school. Volunteers have watched over them, when no one else would. They were not given accommodation because they hadn’t been registered. They weren’t registered because registration for minors was closed at 1pm yesterday, and hundreds of children were sent back to the Jungle. There were fires all over the camp, and it was unsafe for anyone to enter. Residents, including the minors, spent hours on the outskirts waiting to find out where they would sleep.

The Prefete Fabienne Buccio stated their “mission was accomplished”, the Jungle is empty, all children are in state protection. That is a lie. We are terrified that hundreds of children have been forgotten and will not be granted the protection they deserve.

MORNING OF 27th 

This morning, at least 100 children were waiting in the minors’ line to be processed at the registration centre. The centre was closed, and no officials present.

They queued peacefully for hours this morning. They were then told they would not yet be registered and were sent back to outside the container camp, where they are refusing to let them enter without wristbands. Police have now been arresting and forcibly removing children with no explanation or translators. This has happened to children with and without wristbands. Please alert your MP that the home office must do more on the ground protect these children.

LATEST AT 13.30 GMT+1

All residents must be registered by 2pm. Any minors or adults found without wrist bands by that time will be arrested.

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CALAIS EVICTION UPDATE – SECOND DAY

The children in camp

– Some of the unaccompanied minors under the age of 13 have now been brought to the UK, but there are still a huge number of children there.

– Registration of children was stopped earlier this afternoon. We have heard reports that the French authorities were doing cursory age checks on minors to determine whether or not they would be brought to specified accommodation.

– Our incredible volunteers have just distributed over 100 emergency sleeping bags to unaccompanied children still sleeping in the camp tonight, many of whose shelters have been destroyed today. 40 children will sleep in the makeshift mosque in camp tonight.

Adults

– Registration of adults was also stopped at 2pm, and will commence again tomorrow morning.

– Women in the camp protested about their treatment peacefully.

CRS (French Riot Police) 

– The demolition of the camp began, though on a small scale. The chief of CRS has assured volunteers that they are seeking to carry out the demolition without violence.

– The CRS had a large presence and brought in a water cannon, but there were no major conflicts. On the whole, the eviction has so far been calm.

 

Once again, tonight, minors will be sleeping alone in the cold and the wet of the camp. The teams on the ground are continuing to do incredible work, distributing hot food and supplies, information and support.

Thank you to Refugee Info Bus for their continual updates.

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UPDATE – FIRST DAY OF CALAIS EVICTIONS

UPDATE – FIRST DAY OF CALAIS EVICTIONS
 
– The French government started registering residents of the ‘Jungle’ and began the process of taking people on busses to accommodation centres across France. The queues for registration began as early at 4am.
– In total approximately 1,900 people left the ‘Jungle’, much less than the 3,000 that was initially planned for today.
– In camp the atmosphere has been generally calm. People have left Calais voluntarily; many have been waiting for this moment for months and are happy to finally have the chance to stay in France.
– There was some kettling by police at the registration centre – which the additional media presence did not help to calm the situation.
– The safe and appropriate accommodation for the unaccompanied minors did not seem to materialise. Registration was chaotic, with no children being registered for transfer to the UK
– There are still unaccompanied girls in the camp, who are highly vulnerable.
KEVIN CATKINS – Save The Children
‘It is extremely welcome to see vulnerable children who have been trapped in Calais reaching safe haven in the UK over the last week. But, as night falls in Calais tonight, we are deeply concerned for the fate of hundreds of children who remain and who do not know where they will sleep tonight and have no information on what tomorrow will bring.
It is unacceptable that the French operation to demolish the camp, which has been planned for weeks, now risks putting vulnerable children at greater risk.’
LIST OF YOUNGEST UNACCOMPANIED CHILDREN
– Today together with The Unofficial Womens and Childrens centre and using our census data, we sent a list of 49 children under the age of 13 who would qualify to be brought to safety in the UK under the Lord Alf Dubs Amendment to the wonderful Stella Creasy.
Labour MP STELLA CREASY told the Home Secretary:
– That children on the list were not able to register at the warehouse and were still being ignored.
– That three of them are under the age of 11
– She offered to share the details with Rudd, and asked for assurances that children will not be put in detention centres.
Home Secretary AMBER RUDD response:
– “We are making sure children are looked after in a proper way that you would expect from a compassionate nation,” she says.
– She said the UK Home Office had 36 staff-members on the ground, trying to find the youngest children, and was surprised at Stella Creasy’s information.
– ‘There is no ‘them and us’ feeling on the ground; we all have the same aims, we want to get the youngest children out, there is nothing but good will and good intent on this side.’
Former Shadow Home Secretary, YVETTE COOPER:
– Cooper, citing Help Refugees, voiced the concern about the risk of trafficking and disappearance of children.
– She asks for the French government to ensure children, especially girls and young women, have appropriate social workers and youth volunteers to look after them in the container camps.
 
Rudd says the French government has pledged to maintain a secure area of the camp for children and minors – we hope she comes through on her promises tomorrow.
 
Photograph: Rob Pinney
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PREPARING THE REFUGEE CAMPS IN GREECE FOR WINTER

We are thrilled to be partnering with The Timber Project for an immense winterisation project in northern Greece! With winter fast approaching, the 25 military-run refugee camps in northern Greece desperately need to be prepared for the cold weather.

Our first project with the Timber Project is a community space for Drop in the Ocean’s activities in Nea Cavala. The space will be fully covered and protected from the elements, allowing for safe and dignified distributions in the winter months.

Nea Cavala is just one camp. We also need to provide flooring for tents, and sheltered spaces in 24 other camps in northern Greece.

Please help us by donating what you can, or texting REFU to 70700.

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Eviction of the Calais camp

After more than a year, the eviction of the Calais refugee camp known as ‘the Jungle’ began this morning.

The authorities have devised a system for registering camp residents according to their status, taking into consideration minors, family units, and people with vulnerabilities not covered by either of these categories (medical conditions etc). They have informed the associations that 60 buses, going to accommodation centres across France (called CAOs) will be provided today (3000 people), 45 on Tuesday (2400 people) and 40 on Wednesday (2000 people). If more buses are needed on subsequent days they say this can be arranged.

In addition to all those currently residing in the unofficial Calais camp, residents of the government-run container camp are also being required to leave and go to accommodation centres. As a temporary measure, the containers will be used as a processing centre for unaccompanied minors. The unaccompanied minors will be housed there and processed by French and/or British authorities.

The French authorities have confirmed that a group of 40 people will arrive tomorrow to begin manually dismantling the ‘Jungle’ camp. They say there will be no bulldozers tomorrow. They hope the process will be complete within a week.

Representatives from our team on the ground have met with community spokespeople to share all of this information to them so that they can disseminate it within their communities. Our teams will also spend the weekend distributing this information, aiming to ensure everyone knows what the process will be for the week ahead.

The camp will be closed to most during the clearing period. Large aid agencies operational in the camp are permitted to continue to operate and we will have a small core team present. Our team will be there to assist and support as people depart, if required.

Huge queues continue to build at the registration warehouse in Calais as the world’s media looks on (we are told there are over 500 journalists on site today). Meanwhile our friends at Refugee Info Bus tell us the first buses have started to leave for Burgundy. We hope they have the maps Refugee Info Bus (who we are so proud to support) handed out. Wishing all who are leaving safe travels for this next part of their journey. May they find home soon.

Photo: Hassan Akkad

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UNACCOMPANIED CHILDREN ARRIVING IN THE UK

We are encouraged to see that a concerted effort is being made to bring unaccompanied minors in Calais across the Channel.

The promise of Amber Rudd’s office to reunite over 100 children with their families is welcome, but fundamentally insufficient. As Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said on 17th October, “We have the beginnings of some sort of [government] response to what is still a hugely troubling and very urgent situation.”

He spoke out on BBC radio 4, expressing the view that the matter of unaccompanied children in Calais ‘is a basic moral imperative for us to step up to – we have, as a country, an extraordinarily good record of welcome for refugees and people in this kind of trouble, and it’s a matter of living up to our best selves.’

Lord Alf Dubs’ Amendment states that an unspecified number of refugee children should be brought to the UK as long as enough local councils offer spaces for them. There are around 3000 places offered by 44 local councils around the country, but there has been no progress at all on bringing children who qualify under Dubs over.

Let us continue to write to our MP’s to make it clear that we, citizens of the UK, recognise the need to provide urgent protection to these vulnerable children with a full eviction of the Calais camp imminent.

Photo: Rob Pinney

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Refugenes

Celebrated figures in the British public eye came forward to talk about their own refugee heritage, or ‘Refugenes’, with pride. We asked them to tell their story, to try to combat the negative connotations that have come to be associated with the word ‘refugee’ and show that refugees of the past have become the fabric of British society today.

With public figures like Ben Elton, Bella Freud and Jamie Cullum telling their stories, together we tried to change the perception of refugees.

Ben Elton wrote an article for the Sunday Times, talking about how his family were accepted into the UK as refugees from Hitler’s Germany. Rita Ora spoke out for the first time about her Kosovan roots.

We also asked the general public to submit their own stories, members of their family tree who were refugees and found safety in the UK.

We’ve all got ‘Refugenes’ – do you? 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SIjQSpjCNk

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How to Help Unaccompanied Children in Calais

Dear Friends,

As you know the refugee camp in Calais will be closing imminently. Our last census identified 1022 unaccompanied minors living in the camp. At least 387 of these kids have a legal right to be in the UK.

Today we are asking you to take action by writing to your local MP, and then following up with a phone call, to apply pressure to encourage the government to act quickly to meet their commitment to protect the unaccompanied children currently living in the Calais camp who have legal right to safety in the UK.

Why do these kids have a legal right to be in the UK?

Either under Dublin III

· Dublin III entitles them to be reunited with nuclear family members living in the UK
· There are 175 unaccompanied minors currently living in the Calais camp with nuclear family members in the UK
· So far just under a hundred of these young people have been reunited with their families, via Safe Passage. This process can take up to nine months and during this time many children are still risking their lives to try to get to the UK because they have no faith in the system and because the living conditions in the Calais camp are so abhorrent.

Or under the Alf Dubs amendment

· The Dubs amendment, which was passed in May 2016 is supposed to bring an unspecified number of the most vulnerable unaccompanied children in Europe to safety in the UK, much like the Kinder transport during the Second World War.
· 212 children have been registered by teams working with young people on the ground. This list has been submitted to the Home Office by our partners, Citizens UK. Together, our teams are ready to work with the British authorities to facilitate this process.
· So far no action has been ostensibly taken to implement the Dubs amendment and there has been no needs assessment of the children in Calais from the British authorities.
· Now, working across political parties Stella Creasy MP is proposing the Dub II law – an amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill which will force the government to protect these children. To find out more about this law click here.

So pick up a pen and paper today to write a letter to your local MP or send them an email. Or both. And do pick up the phone and call to follow up. In the last 24 hours we have heard from two people who have secured meetings with their MP to discuss this issue by being persistent. To find out who your MP is and their contact details simply follow this link and put your postcode: www.parliament.uk/get-involved/contact-your-mp/

See below for suggested text for your letter or email. Please do share this with friends and family. If we act now, together we really can save lives.

And to donate funds towards please click here.

With Love

HR

Dear

As my MP I’m writing to you to ask you to pledge to safeguard child refugees in Europe.

The Dubs Amendment was passed by parliament in March 2016- it committed us to taking our fair share of the refugee children in Europe who have fled persecution. Yet six months on not a single child has come here under its protection – now there are over 1000 children alone in the Calais camp, which the French Government has said it will evict by the end of October 2016. These children live in tents with strangers, begging for food and hiding from traffickers for want of someone to process their paperwork. The French asylum system has ground to a halt- without action by the UK these children face a very uncertain future.

The Home Office currently has the paperwork for 387 children currently in the Calais refugee camps who have the right to be in the UK legally under either international law or the Dubs amendment. That’s why a cross party group of MPs has tabled the Dubs II amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill to require the Government to put in place a safeguarding process for these children and so protect their welfare. This will be debated in the Lords in October 2016 and will then come to House of Commons for approval.
There is not a moment to lose in the fight to protect these children. When the French evicted part of the camp earlier this year, 100 children went missing. With your help we can ensure these children have a better future. Please let me know if you will pledge your support for this campaign- or let the office of Stella Creasy MP know if you wish to cosign this amendment.

Thank you for your support for this important campaign.

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