David Slater is Chaplain to the Port of Dover and Channel Tunnel. He is also volunteers as a with the Young Lives Foundation, a dedicated children’s charity committed to improving the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged children and young people across Kent and Medway: http://ylf.org.uk/get-involved/volunteers/ He gives us an insight into what it is like to minister to the vulnerable young people who find their way into the Port of Dover. #adventjustice
There are hundreds of unaccompanied migrants who, despite their experience of life, are children and in need of care until their 18th birthday. We put great store on age, but many of the children we see simply have no idea of when they were born. Social Services make Age Assessments, piecing together their past and seeing how they act with adults or other children, not to trick them, but to make an assessment of their needs. Young Lives Foundation volunteers attend these interviews as ‘Accompanying Adults’ to try and ensure everyone understands the process and what outcomes could follow. In this role we are supporters, not advocates and we cannot answer for them, however this is about being there, being non-judgemental and, as a Christian, praying silently for those in our presence. Some stories are heart-breaking, in terms of the lack of family support in their home country, or the harshness of the journey. Others come from places not at war, having comfortable journeys until they get in a lorry near Paris to cross the channel. Some have evidence of weapons training, or may even lie about their age; this might be to avoid adult rules, or in other cases, to avoid foster care in order to be able to work and earn money to send home. It is a hard ministry but a valuable one. Often those we meet can speak little English and we will only see them for a few hours, but it provides them with a vital service, and as a Christians, is an opportunity to serve ‘the least of my brothers’.