'Stand Up To Racism' (Greater Manchester) have issued the following press statement:
GOVERNMENT MUST OPEN UK BORDERS TO REFUGEES LIVING IN THE CALAIS "JUNGLE"
- People from Manchester will join the national Stand Up To Racism delegation travelling to France on Sunday, December 13th
- Delegation will highlight conditions at the camp and refugees dying as a result of the harsh winter weather
- Local group to include a North West MEP, a Bury councillor, a representative from a Manchester Mosque, health workers, teachers and human rights activists
"EVERY NIGHT, SOMEONE IN A TENT ON THIS CAMP IS DYING" ... these are the words of a Sudanese refugee speaking on the phone to a Manchester human rights activist last night.
The man is living in the Calais camp known as "The Jungle" and, next Sunday morning, a delegation will leave Manchester for the French port to highlight the dangerous and squalid conditions in which refugees are still being forced to live. Now people are starting to die as winter brings other problems for refugees at the camp.
The North West group will be part of a national Stand Up To Racism delegation which is demanding that the UK government opens its borders to the refugees before there are more deaths in the camp this winter.
A North West Labour MEP will join a local councillor, health workers, teachers, religious and community leaders, and human rights activists as part of the region's delegation.
Bury councillor Tamoor Tariq, who is Lead Member for Community Safety and Deputy Cabinet Member for Health and Well-Being, said he was joining the delegation to learn first hand what is happening on the ground in the Calais camp. "I hope to work with colleagues to campaign and put further pressure on our government to take in refugees from Calais."
Also travelling from Manchester will be midwife and lecturer Sarah Davies, a member of the Royal College of Midwives and of the Universities and Colleges Union.
She said: "There are pregnant women, mothers and babies living in appalling, dangerous conditions in Calais without access to the maternity care they urgently need.
“It is simple human decency to ensure all pregnant women get access to maternity care - no matter which country they find themselves in. The RCM is appealing to all European countries to work together in a co-ordinated way on this.”
A Manchester Mosque will be represented on the delegation. Shujaat Hussain, treasurer of the UKIM Madina Masjid and Community Centre in Levenshulme, said they were going to France to assess the needs of the refugees and ways the Mosque can help.
He said: "From countries experiencing conflict, widespread violence and insecurity, huge numbers of migrants have opted to come to Europe to find a safer place.
“But they are stuck on the borders and forced to live in very unpleasant conditions. Efforts are being made to provide migrants with the necessary aid to survive in these conditions but the situation is getting worse day by day.”
Nick Wigmore, a national executive member of the National Union of Teachers, said many children and young people in the UK had shown concern about the escalating refugee crisis - in particular, the media images of young children suffering and dying in their attempts to flee from war zones.
He added: "We should thank those teachers who have already explored ways in which pupils, schools and our local communities can help.
“We must do as much as we can to provide not only warmth, food and shelter for refugees but also good education, health care and the opportunity for everyone to flourish within and contribute to our communities.”
Trade unionists supporting the delegation include Ian Hodson, President of the Bakers' Union. which has said it stands in solidarity with refugees in Calais. The union leader praised Stand Up To Racism's delegation and its call for the government to let people fleeing from war and death into the UK.
Ian said: "Britain has a proud tradition of reaching out and offering both support and a safe haven to people caught up in desperate and terrifying circumstances.
“No human being, uprooted and left homeless due to the ravages of war, should be left to undergo further uncertainty in a camp facing a severe winter - inevitably putting the lives of innocent men, women and children at risk.”
The Manchester-based Human Rights organisation RAPAR is sending two of its members, a refugee and a British citizen, to Calais.
A spokesperson for the organisation warned: "We are not prepared to sit back and accept the idea that nothing can be done to stop the Calais camp from existing.
"The 5,000 plus people at the camp are literally on the British border. They are women, children and men from many different war-torn countries and they are now at risk of death again - but this time from a combination of plummeting temperatures and unsanitary conditions.
"This delegation is spotlighting the situation and its solution. The British Government can take a simple step that will stop these deaths from occurring - by allowing people and their families to enter the UK and make their refugee claims in the country where they want to be."
Dr Rhetta Moran, RAPAR