Community urged to show empathy towards migrants arriving in Hastings

The people of Hastings have been urged to be empathetic to the migrants who have arrived on the beaches of Hastings and Winchelsea in recent days.

Wednesday, 15th April 2020, 1:25 pm
Updated Friday, 17th April 2020, 9:10 am
Multiple emergency service vehicles on the beach at Rock-a-nore

Last week, a total of 23 migrants were detained after a large emergency operation between Hastings and Rye.

Then, on Sunday (April 12), a boat carrying 25 men and four women was stopped as it approached Hastings at about 12.10pm.

According to the Home Office, all individuals – including groups from boats intercepted between Hastings and Dover – were taken to Dover and, in line with established processes, were to be assessed for any medical requirements.

All were then transferred to immigration officials.

Following Sunday’s incident, the Refugee Buddy Project, Hastings Supports Refugees and Hastings Community of Sanctuary said they were relieved to hear the migrants had arrived ‘safely and without any severe injuries’.

In a joint statement, they said: “We are very concerned to read the increasingly hostile rhetoric online about refugees arriving here in Hastings.

“At this time of great uncertainty both here and across the world, we encourage everyone in the local community to extend empathy to these arrivals. We are creating a fact sheet with answers to frequently asked questions about the people who make this dangerous journey, which we release in the coming days. We urge everyone to read and share it to resist the spread of inaccurate information.

“The situation in Northern France is worsening every day. With Covid-19 now prevalent in France, the few volunteers who are left on the ground are doing their best to support the homeless population with dwindling supplies, only providing basic food and water through heavy PPE equipment.

“Those seeking refuge are putting their lives at considerable risk by making the crossing. Despite the current ‘lockdown’ environment, the English Channel remains one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

“The situation they are facing in Northern France is desperate; if it weren’t, people would not be risking their lives to make the crossing. We cannot abandon already vulnerable people to the mercy of a global pandemic. We call on the UK and French Governments to provide places of safety for those seeking refuge in Calais and Dunkirk. This means long-term housing, places people can isolate, places where people do not live in fear of catching Covid-19 and where people can get the food, clothing and any medical attention they require.”

Paul Barnett, local councillor and the Hastings point of contact for the charity Care4Calais, visited Northern France in recent weeks.

He added: “Two things strike you in Calais: the dedication and energy of the volunteers who come from all over the UK to spend a week or two there, and the gentle humility of the refugees who are increasingly being harassed and humiliated by French authorities.

“Now that France is in a military lockdown, life is unbearable in the camps along the coast and it isn’t surprising that increasing numbers are desperate enough to attempt sea crossings.

“I was coincidentally at the beach when one of the rescues took place. It wasn’t possible to see much or find out how many refugees made it safely ashore, but let’s make sure that Hastings is generous to the idea of them finding sanctuary here.”

Hastings Community Sanctuary said it was committed to ensuring that all who seek refuge in the town and across the UK are ‘treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve’.

They added: “We have a growing network of over 200 volunteers in the local area who welcome refugees, and Hastings is leading the way in showing how local people can offer empathy and solidarity with people who are suffering across the world.”