The situation facing refugees and migrants continues to be a matter of huge global concern. While the issues are many and complex, the Diocese of Canterbury is committed to showing compassion to those forced to flee their countries as well as the communities they join.
Bishop Trevor has spoken of the need to look behind the headlines and remember the common humanity we share with all refugees and migrants:
“…it is easy to forget that behind each number, behind each percentage and quota are people. Fragile human beings with hope and fears, many of which we could all identify.”
Calais – volunteers and needs 05/06/2017
‘Seeking Sanctuary’ aims to raise awareness about people displaced from their homes and to channel basic humanitarian assistance from Faith Communities and Community Organisations via partnerships with experienced aid workers. Our special concern is for those who arrive in north-western France, mistakenly expecting a welcome in the UK. Almost all the 8,000+ migrants in Calais in October 2016 were moved away, hopefully to better accommodation. 1616 unaccompanied minors also left along with hundreds of vulnerable women and children, hoping that claims to stay in the UK or France would be processed. Many judge that they have been let down, and hundreds have returned to sleep rough near Calais and along the coast. The Grande-Synthe camp near Dunkirk burnt down in April 2017, displacing around 1400 people, over 950 of them moved elsewhere, whilst the rest remain nearby, joined by scores of newcomers weekly.
They need food, good counsel and clothes, which are accepted, sorted and distributed by several Calais warehouses, which also supply needs further afield.
Further information from Ben Bano on 07887 651117 or Phil Kerton on 01474 873802. See their latest news at www.seekingsanctuary.weebly.com
Refugee Week and World Refugee Sunday
In a few weeks’ time, Refugee Week will take place (19 to 25 June). It’s one of the UK’s largest festivals celebrating the contribution of refugees and promoting understanding of why people seek refuge. As part of the week, the Communities and Partnerships Framework is hosting a film screening of Evaporating Borders – an award-winning documentary about the life of refugees in camps in Lesbos.
Through a series of vignettes, the film looks at what it means to be displaced, and examines the idea of belonging and notions of diaspora, exile, and migration. It will take place on Friday 23 June at 6.30pm at the Gulbenkian, University of Kent. An expert panel discussion will follow the film on the topic of life for refugees in Kent after resettlement. Tickets cost £8.50 with some concessions available. To book click here. View poster.
There are also two opportunities at the beginning and end of Refugee Week to take part in World Refugee Sunday. On these Sundays, we are all invited to join with Christians around the world to create ‘a house of prayer for all nations’ (Isaiah 56:7), in solidarity with refugees. A series of tools have been developed by the World Evangelical Alliance to help churches take part. Find all the resources here and for any questions, please contact Coralie Diebold: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Great Get Together
As a Framework we are also supporting The Great Get Together – an initiative of the family of the murdered MP Jo Cox. As Jo herself said in her maiden speech to Parliament, ‘There is more that unites us than divides us.’ In that spirit, and in collaboration with Together Canterbury, Migrant Help UK and Canterbury Cathedral, we have organised a community picnic to take place on Sunday 18 June, in the Dane John Gardens in Canterbury, between 2pm and 5pm.
There will be music and musical workshops with Music for Change, Henna art, Face painting, Craft workshops and tons of love!
Everyone is invited to join this FREE event which seeks to bring the whole community together for a time of friendship, fun and music. View poster.
Get in touch
On a daily basis we are in contact with refugee and asylum organisations, both nationally and locally, to try and improve our links and further our understanding and outreach to this often vulnerable and undermined section of our society.
It’s meant our involvement in the development of exciting collaborations like the Schools of Sanctuary project, which delivers refugee awareness sessions in Kent schools, please find more information on how to get involved with the project here, as well as the East Kent Network of Sanctuary: an umbrella network for organisations, charities and community groups who can support and inspire each other to help build a culture of hospitality for people seeking sanctuary in East Kent.
I am always delighted to speak to any churches or individuals who would like to do more to support refugees through the Syrian Vulnerable Person Relocation Scheme and through the Community Sponsorship Scheme, or who would welcome more information about the challenges they face. I can be contacted directly on email at email@example.com or on 01227 459401. So please do get in touch!
Urgent Donations for Refugee Camps in France
Svenja Powell is the refugee lead for Churches Together in Canterbury and she has kindly agreed to share her reflections on her recent visit to Dunkirk refugee camp available to all through our refugee page.
We also have an update from Svenja’s last visit to France with a more recent report, and an updated list of items needed.
Furthermore, Churches Together in Canterbury are working in partnership with The Salvation Army, Canterbury, to gather items needed in France, and are now also able to take financial donations: Email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information on both modes of solidarity.
Svenja adds that:
The majority of clothing needed is small and medium teenage/men’s clothing and men in the UK tend to be larger than that so it is quite difficult to get enough. Any money donations we get we tend to spend on this.
As a Diocese, we have been keen to develop a long-term and meaningful response to the issues surrounding refugees and migrants. After the initial response from churches which included the sending of clothing and goods to Calais, two areas of specific concern were identified in which the Diocese felt it could offer more sustainable assistance:
- The support of refugees, migrants and young unaccompanied asylum seekers in Kent, as well as those organisations already working tirelessly in this area.
- The support of those working in the camps on the North French coast, the people living within the camps, and communities surrounding them.
Refugee Projects Officer
Through a generously supported Advent Justice Campaign , which has so far raised over £65,000, the Diocese, in partnership with Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN) and Migrant Help UK, has appointed a Refugee Projects Officer. As well as maintaining the relationships that have already been established with local organisations working with refugees, the Refugee Officer is responsible for identifying current and futures needs, sourcing and co-ordinating volunteers from within the parishes, and identifying venues where partners can deliver hospitality and training to refugees.
For more support and guidance, or to tell us about the work your church is doing on this matter, please contact: Domenica Pecoraro – Refugee Projects Officer on email@example.com or the Communities and Partnerships Framework on 01227 459401. @diocantrefugee
The Diocese is continuing to explore how it can support more permanently those living and working in the camps in France through the local churches there; discussions are currently taking place with the Anglican Diocese of Europe, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Arras whose area of responsibility covers many of the places where camps are located, and with whom the Diocese has had a long-standing relationship.
We are aware that, across the parishes, people continue to want to respond with compassion to the plight of refugees. To help support this, the Diocese of Canterbury’s Communities and Partnerships Framework has compiled a regularly updated Refugee Toolkit which offers people five ways to respond: Act, Serve, Campaign and Advocate, Get Informed, and Pray.