John Sentamu: Our duty to refugee children in ‘Jungle’

Dr John Sentamu.
Dr John Sentamu.
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THE Archbishop of York has urged the Royal Navy to increase in its patrols in the Mediterranean to deter people smuggling gangs.

Dr John Sentamu’s spoke out following national newspaper reports which said that the second most senior member of the Church of England had accused EU nations of “shunting” asylum seekers towards the UK.

It follows an appearance earlier this week at the Henley Literature Festival where the Archbishop was promoting his new book, Agabe Love Stories, which tells how God – and the Church – gave hope to people like the family of 10-year-old schoolboy Damilola Taylor who was killed in London in 2000.

Dr Sentamu told The Yorkshire Post: “A lot of questions were about the book and towards the end a lady from the audience asked ‘What are your feelings about the Jungle at Calais?’

“I said on a Saturday before the Brexit vote I travelled with 34 young people to Taizé, and when we approached the Jungle, I asked them to stand and see it. They were shocked and upset that migrants would live in such conditions.

“While in Taizé, when the Brexit vote came through, they were upset given the fact that they had already befriended a lot of people of a similar age from the rest of the European Union. On our way back a week later we passed the Jungle and this time on the Calais side and were able to have a clearer view and they were very upset but I said to them this is a responsibility of the countries where those migrants arrived in the first place.

“It is for them to resolve. However, if there are unaccompanied minors in the Jungle and their families have been given asylum in the United Kingdom, it seems to me that this is a matter which the Government of the United Kingdom has to resolve. Families should not be separated.

“I then said that the responsibility for handling that the Jungle lies with the Schengen countries to resolve and they must not use the Jungle as a way of passing on migrants that have entered Schengen countries to get to the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom is not a signatory to the Schengen Agreement and therefore the responsibility of handling the Jungle’ is theirs and theirs alone.”

Dr Sentamu, who fled his native Uganda in the early 1970s, said: “As to people who are being trafficked from the Libyan coast by people traffickers in very unsafe vessels attempting to get to the European coast, I have wondered why the British Navy and others have not patrolled the Libyan coast to stop people traffickers and many people dying in their attempt to get to Europe.

“The Daily Mail’s suggestion that I stopped and got out to visit the camp in June is incorrect. The Schengen comment is purely to do with the Jungle and not a general answer to the question of migration.”

He added that the “seeds of violence and the displacement of people in Syria, Iraq and Libya, were sown by the illegal war of Tony Blair and George Bush Jnr”.