(Source: MJ/Seeking Sanctuary)

Floral tributes have been laid at the memorial on Dover seafront in memory of Abdulfatah Hamdallah (known as “Wadji”), a young man from Sudan who drowned while attempting to cross the Channel from France to seek asylum in the UK.

– “Every migrant has a name, a face and a story”

The wreath, in the colours of the Sudanese flag, carries a message based upon his last Facebook post:

“On the palm of fate we walk, and don’t know what’s written. Your’s was written too short, may your freedom in the Hereafter long live”.

Ben Bano, Co-Director of Seeking Sanctuary commented:

“This tragic death reminds us of the risks that desperate people take in order to find sanctuary. A life full of hope and opportunity has been lost, like many others who have in recent years.

“Let us mourn them and remember them – in the words of Pope Francis, ‘Every migrant has a name, a face and a story'”.

– Channel crossers not “illegals”

Speaking August 12 to The Tablet, Bano took aim at UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who had inflamed the situation in the Channel by saying that crossings were “a very bad and stupid and dangerous and criminal thing to do” and also by hinting at a law change that would make it easier to deport migrants who arrive in the country by such irregular means.

“We deplore the use of xenophobic and populist language from whatever source to describe people in a desperate situation risking their lives to find safety”, Bano lamented.

The Co-Director of Seeking Sanctuary continued:

“Let’s also remember that those involved are not ‘illegals’ – it is perfectly legal to cross the Channel in order to claim asylum in the UK  as there is no other means of doing so”.

– England and Wales bishop for migration: “Those formed by Christ’s teachings should be on the side of the afflicted”

In the meantime, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster and England and Wales Bishops’ Conference lead bishop for migration Paul McAleenan said that “the Governments of the UK and France need to work together to assist those struggling, recognising that they are dealing with people who have already escaped danger, persecution and danger in their own countries. They are still trying to escape”.

“We are being shown sights of unseaworthy crafts in the water, however there is another reality, a story behind the headlines”, the bishop continued.

“Each individual in those vessels in the sea has a history, the pain of which they are trying to flee.

“Why are they attempting to reach the UK? Providing the true answer to this question is essential, among other things it will help to allay the fears of the British public”.

Bishop McAleenan continued:

“I pay tribute to those voluntary organisations in Northern France and on the south coast of England who in word and action have made it clear that it is our obligation to assist those in danger and to go to the aid of the deprived.

“In March when referring to the pandemic, Pope Francis said that all ‘are in the same boat’. Metaphorically, that is where the supporters of the refugees are, it is where those who are formed by Christ’s teachings should be, willing to be on the side of the afflicted”.

Bano and McAleenan were speaking as figures revealed that 1,004 migrants were brought ashore by the UK Border Force between August 4-13.

So far this year at least 4,511 people have been intercepted by authorities in the channel: more than double the amount who crossed during the whole of 2019.

– About Seeking Sanctuary

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 the 2000 or so exiles who are stuck in north-western France, mistakenly expecting a welcome in the UK.

They need food, water, good counsel and clothes, which are accepted, sorted and distributed by several organisations, including two Calais warehouses which also supply needs further afield.

Follow Seeking Sanctuary on Twitter for the latest updates

More on Novena on migrant tragedies in the English Channel:

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


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.