A glimpse of our work in Calais
For the last year, RLS has been running our Calais project. We provide up-to-date, high quality UK legal support and information to people blocked in Northern France and the organisations that support them.
We wanted to give an insight into what this looks like. To show how we’ve been spending our time and some of the issues we’ve been working on.
Weekly workshops at Secours Catholique Day Centre
The Secours Catholique Day Centre is one of the main places that people gather in Calais. The population here is ever changing as people come and go, meaning that regular support and advice is essential.
In recent a recent session:
We ran a workshop with 16 attendees, including people from Sudan, Egypt, Guinea and Eritrea
There were 4 children in this group
We also ran a separate session specifically for women and couples, with 6 attendees
People in the workshops were interested in what the Illegal Immigration Bill means for them, what to expect in the UK and if they could be sent to Rwanda
Francesca, our Calais Coordinator, points out that the people in these sessions are very aware of and worried about the recent changes in the law in the UK.
Visit to the women’s safe house
For many women, the main locations in Calais are inaccessible. We regularly visit a secure women’s house to make sure that they’re able to access essential legal information.
On a recent visit, we spoke to three female refugees, three volunteers and the owner of the house about the screening interview in the UK. The women were worried about officials believing their story. This made them hesitant to mention vital details at their interview if they reached the UK.
“It reminded me of how important this work is. We work to give people the confidence and belief to advocate for themselves despite the hostility of the Home Office regime.” Francesca, RLS Calais Coordinator.
Supporting other NGOs - the Calais Forum
We coordinate a monthly meeting of UK and French organisations and volunteers. We discuss issues that people are facing, updates on the law and procedures in the UK and help that’s needed.
At the most recent meeting, we discussed asylum questionnaires, compensation for people detained at Manston, inadmissibility, the situation for people from India and coordination of advocacy efforts.
Bringing in expert UK advice
On a monthly basis, we bring over additional expert UK lawyers on a monthly basis to provide extra support in Calais. The visits are often packed. For example, the schedule for a recent visit was:
Wednesday afternoon: arrive and run an info session at the Secours Catholique Day Centre
Thursday morning: visit the women’s house to run sessions with the residents
Thursday afternoon: run a workshop on asylum in the UK at the Secours Catholique Day Centre
Thursday evening: run an information session on asylum in the UK for other organisations and volunteers
There’s more support needed here and we have ambitious plans to do even more and will be seeking funding to expand the project.