UK religious leaders urge PM to accept child refugees

Rabbis, ministers and imams call on Theresa May to allow 387 minors trapped in the Calais ‘Jungle’ into Britain

Laura Janner-Klausner (Screen capture: YouTube)
Laura Janner-Klausner (Screen capture: YouTube)

Senior rabbis, church leaders and imams sent a letter to UK Prime Minister Theresa May Sunday urging her to accept almost 400 children trapped in a refugee camp in Calais.

The letter, seen by the Daily Mail, referred to May’s speech last Wednesday at the Conservative Party Conference in which she said that one of the priorities for her government was “providing humanitarian support for refugees in need.”

The faith leaders call on May to follow through on her promise and bring 387 child refugees to Britian from the so-called “jungle” refugee camp. “They have fled conflict and persecution, are now stuck in Northern France, deeply traumatized and at great risk,” the letter states.

They referred specifically to children who are entitled to enter Britain either under existing EU rules because of family connections to the UK or who are unaccompanied and therefore could be brought to the country through an amendment of the Immigration Act.

Most of the refugees in the French camp have had harrowing journeys through north Africa and Europe before ending up in Calais. But for many the “jungle” is the end of the line: almost all want to get into Britain, and Britain does not want them.

The letter referred to the refugees that Britain has rehoused over the years “from the Kindertransport to Kosovo” and to once again respond with “moral leadership in times of urgent humanitarian need.”

Migrants walk at a site dubbed the 'New Jungle,' where some 3,000 people have set up camp -- most seeking desperately to get to England, in Calais, France on September 19, 2015. (AFP/ PHILIPPE HUGUEN)
Migrants walk at a site dubbed the ‘New Jungle,’ where some 3,000 people have set up camp — most seeking desperately to get to England, in Calais, France on September 19, 2015. (AFP/ PHILIPPE HUGUEN)

The rabbis who signed the letter all hold senior positions within the Liberal and Reform movements. Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, represents Reform Judaism to British Jewry and the wider public. Liberal Rabbi Janet Darley was honored earlier this year by Citizens UK for her role in campaigning for the government to rehouse Syrian refugees.

Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild is a previous chair of the Rabbinic Assembly of Reform Judaism, Rabbi Richard Jacobi is the co-chair of the Rabbinic Conference of Liberal Judaism and Rabbi David Mitchell, rabbi of UK’s flagship reform West London Synagogue.

No Orthodox or Masorti rabbis signed the letter, despite the fact that in February a delegation of those rabbis went to see the refugee camp for themselves and came away determined to raise their religious voices to urge Britain and France to put an end to the Calais “jungle.”

Other signatories to the letter were the Bishops of Durham, Manchester and Southwark and the Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain Harun Rashid Khan.

Several children have already died trying to escape the camp or sneak into Britain. The French authorities have said that they will totally dismantle the camp by the end of the year and remove everyone living there.

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