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'Crisis in Calais': Bishop of Dover calls for 'multi-agency' response

Rt Revd Trevor Willmott said the needs of migrants in Calais had to be addressed by charities and the Church.

"The important thing at this moment is information and knowledge," he said, "knowledge of what actually is happening in Calais and knowledge of what people's needs are."

He added: "That I think needs a multi-agency approach to it.

"Knowledge, information and then a multi-agency approach I think is the answer."

Asked if he meant bigger aid charities he replied: "I think it does, I think it involves bigger agencies."

Thousands of people are currently camped in Calais with hundreds attempting to enter the Channel Tunnel and get to Britain every night.

The majority of the people in Calais are seeking asylum for violence in war-torn countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, and many parts of North Africa.

Earlier this month Premier's Jamie Cutteridge visited the camp, often referred to as "The Jungle".

He described the situation as a "humanitarian crisis" and said there was a need to "re-humanise those in the camp".

Bishop Trevor said it was "critical" that Christians looked after the thousands of people in Calais "standing in front of us in their human need".

He said he wanted to send a message to the major Christian aid agencies: "Let's work together and lets work with the statutory agencies away.

"There is no one answer from the charities or the Christian Churches. We have to work with the governments on both sides of the channel."

Premier has approached all of the Christian charities signed up to the UK's Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) organisation.


Christian Aid said it did not work in Europe and had no plans to directly offer support to those in Calais, but added it was helping refugees around the world.

World Vision UK said the charity was focusing its efforts on helping refugees before they reach Calais.

Tim Pilkington, chief executive, said: "The refugee crisis in Calais and many other parts of Europe demonstrates the dreadfully desperate circumstances thousands of people are living in; and why urgent action is required in aiding them. It is estimated that over half of the migrants are vulnerable children who have little care and support.

"The media has focused on the conflicts in the Middle East as the main cause of the refugees' movement. At World Vision UK, our priority is to help the huge numbers of people affected by the fighting across that region (the Middle East) in the hope that one day a peaceful political solution can be found.

"We work with refugees in Lebanon and Jordan; and with the communities hosting refugees in these countries. We know our efforts alone will not solve the crisis, which is why we urge the international community to remain resolute in seeking a lasting solution.

"It's unfortunate that EU political leaders cannot agree on a humane solution to address the crisis.

"We would like to see more political courage and foresight in resolving this crisis and its many root causes. European leaders have a legal and moral obligation to ensure that people seeking asylum attain protection of their rights regardless of their country of origin."

CAFOD responded saying their "mandate from the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales is to support poor communities in developing countries. We work in many of the countries where migrants and refugees originate from, including Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as neighbouring countries that host refugee.

"Our sister agencies in the Caritas network across Europe are also playing a significant role in providing support to newly arrived migrants and refugees. For example:

"Caritas France are providing food, blankets, clothes and hygiene items such as soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste to migrants and refugees in Calais, and have also been lobbying the Mayor of Calais and the French Home Secretary to do more to help.

"In Italy local diocesan teams from Caritas Italy meet migrants and refugees as they arrive in ports in Sicily, providing them with water, warm clothes, blankets and food. Caritas Italy provides around 6,000 beds for migrants and refugees, as well as food, clothing, Italian lessons, training, legal advice and psychological and medical support. It also runs centres for child migrants and refugees throughout the country.

"Caritas Greece runs a refugee centre in Athens, where there is a soup kitchen and where migrants and refugees can seek supplies, language classes, and psychological and legal help. A programme will be launched in September to give support to migrants on the islands of Chios, Lesvos and Kos."

Tearfund has yet to respond.

The Salvation Army said it was unable to comment but added that any practical response on French soil would be handled by its organisation in France.

Bishop Trevor Willmott speaking to Premier's Marcus Jones:

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