The human cost of keeping refugees out of Europe

Recent footage from inside detention camps in Libya shows people being forced to live in abysmal conditions. Frequently locked in dark rooms and denied food, water and medication, some are reportedly resorting to drinking toilet water to survive. On top of this, there have been disturbing accounts of torture and abuse at the hands of people traffickers.


The people in these camps are being held indefinitely and against their will. Most of them were intercepted and arrested by the Libyan coastguard as they attempted to cross in to European waters in the Mediterranean Sea, a process which is receiving full support from the EU (via a deal of tens of millions of euros between Italy and the Libyan coastguard) as a way of outsourcing control over people migrating to European countries.


It is true, as EU leaders claim, that numbers of arrivals on the shores of Europe are dropping, but what these leaders fail to mention is that this is not because fewer people are making the journey in the first place. This is because these people – men, women, unaccompanied children, entire families – are instead being stopped in Libya and subjected to unbearable treatment for months on end. In the two years that have passed since the EU-Libya deal was agreed, refugees and migrants have been dying in Libya as a direct result of EU policy.


Channel 4 has produced this ten-minute piece with footage obtained from people who have managed to hide mobile phones in their cells. Please be aware that the video does contain distressing content.


Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have publicly condemned the conditions in Libya, and last month many major international organisations published an open letter criticising EU leaders for their inaction in the face of such a tragedy.


Writing secretly to Sally Hayden for the Guardian, an Eritrean man imprisoned in one of the detention centres makes this plea:


“It is hard to talk about this life. I am losing hope. Please share this to the world and tell [them] our problems before many lives are gone.”

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Three years ago, a Calais eviction left 129 children unaccounted for. Where are they now?

On the last day of February in 2016, the eviction of the southern half of the Calais “Jungle” began and residents were evicted. Authorities had said that there were only 800-1,000 people living in the south, so that’s how many accommodation spaces were made available.

Our team on the ground knew that in reality the number was much higher. Two weeks earlier, Help Refugees volunteers had counted 5,497 people, including 651 children – 423 of whom were unaccompanied – in the camp. Over half of these were in the south.

Associations in Calais warned authorities that children would go missing in an eviction without adequate safeguarding measures. In the census after the eviction, volunteers found that 129 unaccompanied minors were unaccounted for.

In the months that followed some of these minors returned to northern France, and our partners were able to track a small number of them down and offer their support. For the most part, though, we don’t know what happened. Many of them will have been at huge risk of exploitation and trafficking. Many will have joined the reported 10,000 missing unaccompanied children in Europe.

Today there are more than 150 unaccompanied minors in northern France, living in flimsy tents, on the streets, under bridges and in forests. They wait for the UK government to provide the legal routes it promised them. Instead of legal routes, they have been given more walls, fences and barbed wire.

Slow, inefficient and unfair

Under the Dubs Amendment, many of these kids have been eligible for transfer to the UK for nearly three years. If proper systems of support had been put in place by the French and UK governments, those children could now be living in safety.

An incomprehensibly slow, inefficient and unfair asylum system has left thousands of children living in limbo. In the time it’s taken for the Home Office to start the process of filling the 480 spaces it has committed to,  hundreds more have gone missing.

As February temperatures hit new highs in the UK, it’s easy to forget about the threatening cold of a winter’s night. It is still winter, though, and children are still homeless and ignored. We can’t let another year go by while they remain in this condition.

What can you do to help?

If you have one minute you can write to your MP:

To ask them to ensure the spaces available to unaccompanied minors under the Dubs scheme in their constituency are filled as soon as possible. You can use our template here – it only takes 30 seconds!

If you have one day you can arrange a meeting with your MP:

To speak face-to-face with your representative regarding the situation in Calais and the conditions these children are living in. Ask them to confirm their commitment to bringing them to the UK and to offering spaces in their constituency, as well as to bringing up the issue in Parliament.

If you have one week (or longer) you can head to Calais to volunteer:

While they are waiting to be offered the protection to which they are legally entitled, these kids – as well as the many adults sleeping rough in and around Calais – need support from people like you. Head over to the volunteering section of our website or drop us an email via to find out more about how you can help.

Photo: Beatrice Lily Lorigan/ Refugee Info Bus

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RefuAid’s refugee loan scheme: “It’s a fantastic opportunity”

Our partners at RefuAid have launched their zero interest loan scheme that enables refugees in the UK to requalify and restart their lives – and it’s already helping people.

Mohammad, 30, is a Qualified Dental Surgeon from Damascus. He’s one of the first recipients of the RefuAid: Equal Access Loan and is borrowing funds in order to take the necessary exams to return to work.

Unable to return to war torn Damascus, Mohammad and his family sought asylum in the UK. He and his family gained refugee status, but in order to requalify to practise dentistry in the UK he needs a licence from the Royal College of Surgeons – the exams can cost up to £7000. “I know that I can pass the exams, but the only obstacle I’ve had to overcome is finding the money to do so”, explained Mohammad.

“When I heard about the RefuAid Loan scheme it was like a dream come true. It’s a fantastic opportunity, almost unbelievable – an interest free loan, no fees, no additional charges and I can pay it back over 4 years in small monthly payments – which will help me to finally be able to practise my own profession again.”

Mohammad continues “There are so many qualified people in the country, wishing they could just do their jobs, but, like me, not being able to practice in the UK because of licensing and training costs.”

“Surely everyone should have a chance to practise their own profession? Especially when you can fill in gaps in local communities, when your skills are in demand. It’s great to have an opportunity not only to support my family doing what I was trained to do, but also to participate in and give back to the local community.”

Since the launch of the loan scheme on the 28th of July, RefuAid have received over 60 applications, with have a number of incredible applicants who require loans in order to cover the cost of requalification and return to work in the UK.

They currently have a waiting list as a result of an £88,000 shortfall in loan capital. The incredible thing about a donation to the RefuAid: Equal Access Loan is that your donation is recycled and lent time and time again to support refugees in the UK return to work.

To support the scheme today please click here and donate.

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