(Source: CD/People Not Walls)

People Not Walls is a cross-channel network of French and British NGOs and charities concerned to protect human rights on the north coast of France. Today they are represented by a handful of organisations due to the Covid restrictions, namely, Westminster Justice and Peace, Pax Christi and the London Catholic Worker.

The members of People Not Walls believe it is more effective to invest in the dignity and humanitarian treatment of the people who arrive in the north of France hoping to reach the UK than to spend more and more on the securitisation of the borders.

“No amount of barbed wire and concrete will stop people making a dangerous journey if there are no safe alternatives for them”, People Not Walls implored.

The group has campaigned for the last two years for joint collaboration between the French and British governments to provide not only humanitarian provision for the thousands of people in desperate transit, but also for safe and legal routes to apply for asylum in the UK. 

Friday September 25 People Not Walls was to deliver a joint letter to the Rt Hon Priti Patel, Secretary of State for the UK Home Office, and M Gerald Darmanin, French Ministre de l’Intérieur to work together, NOT to build more walls, or defences, but to invest in the safety and well-being of the human beings on our borders. 

In parallel, they planned to deliver copies of the signatures of their online petition for human rights on the French and UK joint borders, which in a short space of time has attracted hundreds of names.

This action was in fellowship with People Not Walls’ partner associations in France, including l’Auberge des Migrants, Utopia56, Secours Catholique and others who are demonstrating on the streets of Calais, in between attempting to get an injunction lifted on distributing food and supplies in Calais. 

“We call on our respective governments to act in the name of humanity, and to drop the ineffective border securitisation. Without this, the dangerous crossings will continue into the winter”, People Not Walls warned.

UK Home Office refuses delivery of letter

Having successfully delivered the letter at the French Embassy, the small group of People Not Walls representatives were shocked and disappointed to find that delivery was refused at the Home Office, despite having sent an email several days earlier to advise about the pending delivery.

Barbara Kentish, Interim Co-ordinator of People not Walls said, “We were abruptly told at the door that a delivery could only be accepted if we were accompanied by a solicitor.

“Having carefully studied the Home Office website before planning our delivery, this refusal was totally unexpected and makes one wonder what imaginary threat could be posed by two ladies and three members of the clergy arriving in the full light of day.

“Why do Home Office Ministers and Civil Servants obstruct the delivery of messages from voters?”

‘Remember’

A poem for the World Day of Prayer for Migrants, September 27 2020

(Source: Ben Bano, Seeking Sanctuary)

Father in Heaven, look down in mercy. Remember our sisters and brothers caught up in the destitution of refugee camps.

Remember all those who are afflicted with the double burden of a Covid infection.

Remember those who are forced to leave their homes and livelihoods as a result of conflict, poverty and climate change.

Remember the suffering of those who attempt dangerous sea crossings.

Remember their cries of anguish of those who risk their lives trying to flee danger and persecution.

Remember the cries of children who have no parents to care for them.

Remember the cries of parents whose children are lost during journeys that started in hope.

Remember the cries of those who are persecuted and massacred for their beliefs.

Remember all those who come to their aid and promote messages of tolerance and understanding in an unforgiving world.

Remember those who harden their hearts with a misplaced understanding of what is right for their community and country.

Remember all those who are excluded and left destitute leading to the loss of their dignity and humanity.

Remember the sufferings of all those who are abused and sold into slavery on their journey to freedom.

Remember the vulnerable who are robbed of their dignity and humanity as they are trafficked by unscrupulous men.

Remember all politicians and influencers, that they may encourage all to recognise the common humanity of those crossing borders and value the contributions that they bring.

Remember those who are rejected and deported in the name of ‘justice’ or ‘fairness’.

Remember the families who are separated in the struggle to find sanctuary.

Remember all those who have no access to food, shelter, education or employment.

And remember and be present to those whose only wish to is to live their lives in dignity, in peace and in hope.

We ask this prayer through Jesus Christ your Son, who walked alongside the least of our brothers and sisters. Amen.

More on Novena on the situation for migrants in Calais:

Migrant advocates say “end this cruel dilemma” for exiles in Calais

Secours Catholique denounces “appalling” living conditions of refugees in Calais

‘Seeking Sanctuary’ pays moving tribute to migrant life “full of hope and opportunity” lost in English Channel (photo)

“Their lives matter”: ‘People not Walls’ pleads for safe passage for migrants from Calais to UK

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.