Monday, September 19, 2016

Another tragedy

A 14-year-old boy was killed on a Calais motorway while trying to reach his family in Britain, despite having a legal right to asylum in the UK.  The young Afghan – who has a brother and two uncles living in the UK – was killed in a hit and run accident after trying to jump on a lorry and then falling off into the path of an oncoming car. 

He had already started the legal process to join his family in Britain but had been left languishing in the Calais Jungle migrant camp for more than three months due to delays in the system. While a small number of child refugees have been brought to Britain under family reunification laws, their cases have only been successful with the help of private intervention and there remains no state-funded system in place. Meanwhile not a single child has been brought to Britain under the wider provisions of the “Dubs amendment” made to the immigration bill in May, despite more than 200 children living in Calais being eligible under the criteria.

He is thought to be the youngest victim to lose his life in an attempt to reach Britain from the camp, although because some children are often travelling alone, some deaths go unrecorded. The number of unaccompanied minors living in the makeshift refugee camp has soared by 51% in the past month to 1,022.

The dead boy had been “waiting so long he lost faith in the system and thought his only option was to risk his life in order to finally reach safety”, according to the charity Help Refugees. “Like the children still trapped in the Jungle, he is likely to have experienced enormous hardship, police violence, hunger and poor mental health. He would have felt he had no rights and that he was not worth the protection of any state. He could have been with his brother, he could have been in school, he could have been safe.”

Labour peer Lord Dubs said: “It’s disastrous this kid has been killed but sadly it is not surprising because the British Government continues to drag its heels. These children with family in the UK have homes to go to so there is no excuse for delays.” 

Annie Gavrilescu, a field manager for Help Refugees, based in Calais, said: “There has been a huge increase in the number of unaccompanied children in the past few weeks and we are also seeing more unaccompanied girls than previously…All they want is to reach their families and somebody in an office wearing a suit is preventing them from doing that by refusing to sign a bit of paper. All this time the Home Office and the French authorities are blaming each other and using these children as pawns – it’s disgusting politics.”

While the global pathways to human movements are being sealed off with fences and walls, the barriers to unregulated free trade are being dismantled.  It is fine to be protectionist against humans, but not against capital.

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