Calais-based volunteers condemn UK for death of Sudanese teenager

Government has failed to provide routes for refugees from northern France, says Clare Moseley of Care4Calais

On an overcast Wednesday morning in Calais volunteers from Care4Calais were out in force as usual distributing food and other necessities to refugees hoping to cross the Channel to seek sanctuary in the UK.

But the mood was much more sombre than usual as the news spread about the death of a young refugee. Volunteers held a short silence to reflect on the bravery and dignity of the young person from Sudan who had lost his life trying to reach safety.

Clare Moseley, of Care4Calais, condemned the failure of the government to provide safe and legal routes for refugees to reach the UK from northern France.

“Things need to change. We need a way for people’s asylum claims to be fairly heard without them having to risk their lives,” she said.

Simon Jones, of Maria Skobtsova House, a place of shelter for refugee families in Calais, said in the past five years he and others had supported families in France to collect the bodies of asylum seekers who had died trying to reach the UK, often losing their lives crushed under the wheels of trains or hit by lorries.


“Most of the young people have already been on the road for 12-18 months,” he said. “Most have already had risk-laden journeys through Libya or from Turkey to Greece. We are spending more money on security in northern France so the smugglers’ prices go up to deal with this security. But demand has not gone down.”

Jonny Willis, CEO of Refugee Youth Service, said they work in Calais and in Greece with young refugees, providing information about safe options. He said: “When young people get into a dinghy in Calais they know the risks. Very few of them will have made it here without having already crossed a very dangerous stretch of water previously. Smugglers try to play down the risks. The children know the risks but they want to cross regardless. We have worked with children who have seen their friends drown but who still want to cross.”

Ishmael Hamoud, 21, the first child to reach the UK safely thanks to the Dubs scheme to bring child refugees to safety, a scheme that has now ended, called on the government to set up more safe routes for child refugees to reach the UK and reunite with family members.

Hamoud has just completed an undergraduate degree and hopes to start a masters in international public policy before applying for a job at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais in their warehouse near Calais, France.
Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais in their warehouse near Calais, France. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA

He spent 13 months in Calais between 2015 and 2016 making around 50 failed attempts to cross the Channel to the UK by train or lorry. Eventually he was brought to safety under the Dubs scheme. He had previously survived a precarious sea crossing from Turkey to Greece.

“It’s horrific what’s happening now in Calais,” he said. “More people are putting themselves in danger and more people will die. We need to have a new scheme like Dubs to bring child refugees to safety.”

Ali, a teenage asylum seeker from the Middle East who recently reached safety in the UK said: “Nobody who is living in a safe place would risk their life making the kind of journey many refugees are making. Some refugees are kidnapped and others sell their bodies on their journeys. Some are as young as 12 or 13 or 14. Some have lost their parents. They just want to live.”

He said while it was tragic the way the young Sudanese refugee had lost his life, he was luckier than some who had drowned at sea and whose bodies were never found.

“People are not coming to the UK for benefits. They are coming here so they can live and not die.”

Beth Gardiner-Smith, chief executive of Safe Passage, which works with young people who are unaccompanied in Europe, fleeing persecution and seeking sanctuary, said: “This morning’s tragic news is the direct consequence of a lack of safe alternatives for those seeking sanctuary. The French and UK governments have been quick to blame people smugglers but fail to recognise that the best way to destroy their business model is to provide safe and legal routes for refugees and a clear pathway to asylum. Ministers in the UK and France need to get a grip and make it their personal priority to prevent any more needless loss of life.”


Diane Taylor

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Home secretary stands firm as row over Calais border deal intensifies
Home secretary to visit Paris, with talks set to be dominated by border controls as Nicolas Sarkozy calls for the Jungle to be relocated to UK

Heather Stewart Political editor

30, Aug, 2016 @6:25 AM

Article image
UK to take small group of children from Calais refugee camp
French officials say Britain has agreed no ‘deal for larger-scale plan’ but will accept 20 unaccompanied minors this week

Jasper Jackson and agencies

16, Oct, 2016 @4:22 PM

Article image
Calais asylum hotspot proposal: the main questions answered
French politicians want a centre where UK asylum claims can be processed in France. Why has the plan caused so much outrage?

Alan Travis Home affairs editor

30, Aug, 2016 @12:09 PM

Article image
Migrant teenagers without family in UK barred except Syrians and Sudanese
Campaigners condemn Home Office guidelines on 12- to 15-year-olds issued after demolition of Calais camp

Lisa O'Carroll

16, Nov, 2016 @12:40 AM

Article image
Teargas, cold, no toilets: plight of refugees in Calais revealed
As woods in northern France once again house hundreds of people, many report police aggression and sparse supplies

Amelia Gentleman in Calais. Photography: Alicia Canter

10, Aug, 2017 @6:38 PM

Article image
UK immigration minister confirms work to start on £1.9m Calais wall
Robert Goodwill says four-metre high wall to stop refugees boarding lorries is part of £17m Anglo-French security package

Alan Travis and Angelique Chrisafis

07, Sep, 2016 @10:37 AM

Article image
Refugees take to hiding in northern France after Calais camp demolished
While some head for Dunkirk refugee camp Grande-Synthe, many sleep in ditches near the coast and continue trying to reach UK

Amelia Gentleman in Dunkirk

05, Nov, 2016 @7:00 AM

Article image
First group of refugee children arrives in Britain from Calais
Resettlement programme commences as 14 minors from war-torn countries are reunited briefly with UK-based relatives

Lisa O'Carroll and Matthew Taylor

17, Oct, 2016 @6:16 PM

Article image
France and UK rush to process Calais minors as camp demolition nears
Charities fear children could get caught up in ‘herding’ of adult migrants on to buses when dismantling of refugee camp begins

Alexandra Topping, Angelique Chrisafis and Lisa O'Carroll

23, Oct, 2016 @7:24 PM

Article image
Calais refugee camp running out of food amid donor fatigue
Charities warn of shortage of food, tents and blankets as number of refugees keeps growing while donations dwindle

Amelia Gentleman in Calais

02, Sep, 2016 @9:31 AM