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Joint statement on the arrival of sanctuary seekers in Hastings – October 2019

Hastings Community of Sanctuary, The Hastings & Rother Refugee Buddy Project and Hastings Supports Refugees were relieved to hear that the approximately 17 people who arrived on the beaches of Hastings and Winchelsea on Thursday 3rd October 2019 did so safely and with no severe injuries.Widely reported in the local press, Detective Inspector Jon Gillings, of Hastings police, said: “Two of those detained required medical treatment and we are concerned that one or two others still outstanding may also be in need of assistance.” The Police also expressed concern that an indeterminate number of people may have left the beach at Winchelsea before the arrival of the Police.

We support the request by the Police that anyone who encounters someone appearing cold, wet, hungry, disorientated, or in need of medical aid, should immediately contact the Police by phoning 999. The safest way for these vulnerable new arrivals to make their asylum claim is with Police support.

As a Community of Sanctuary – a welcoming place for all who are seeking refuge and safety – we hope anyone arriving in our town, whether by boat, bus or train, will be met with the warmth and compassion we see in our work on a daily basis.

Despite the press reporting those arriving as “illegal immigrants” we are in no doubt that these are people seeking refuge and safety, making the dangerous journey across the Channel from Calais where the Police have become increasingly hostile over the last 10 days. On 25th September there were public reports that the French Police had destroyed a camp in Dunkirk, leaving around 300 people, including young children, without shelter or provisions. Despite promising to take them to accommodations centres in the City, many were left on the roadside in a storm.

Similar stories of daily confiscation of tents and clothing are coming out of Calais on a weekly basis. The volunteer organisations who work in these places simply cannot keep up with the level of need.

It is unsurprising, then, that people seeking refuge are desperate to make the journey to Britain and, based on their experiences of Police hostility in France it is no surprise that some may have left the beach before the UK Police arrived, most likely in an attempt to find their own way to London to formally seek asylum. These already vulnerable people, potentially including children, are now at high risk of being exploited by unscrupulous gangs and people traffickers.

The solution to all of this is to create legal and safe routes into the UK.

The UK Government must act to stop the situation where hundreds of people are sleeping rough in Northern France, subject to hostility and violence by local Police, so desperate to be safe that they would cross the busiest shipping lane in the world on nothing more than rubber dinghies.

We have to do better than this.

Care4Calais provide food and provisions to the camps in Calais and Dunkirk. You can  donate via their website