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People not walls demonstration for migrants at Dover and Calais on World Refugee Day

By Sam Lennon

A major Anglo-French demonstration for migrants takes place today.

People are gathering in Dover and Calais to protest at conditions they have to live in and alleged excessive force against them by French police.

The dual demonstration, on World Refugee Day, is heralded as the launch of the first ever cross-Channel human rights partnership.

Migrants in Calais at the time of the closure of the Jungle, 2016. Picture copyright SWNS (South West News Service).
Migrants in Calais at the time of the closure of the Jungle, 2016. Picture copyright SWNS (South West News Service).

They include a banner display on the cliffs and a demonstration at Calais beach.

The initiative is called People Not Walls and is a call to both British and French governments to replace the security-focused approach with a humanitarian alternative.

They say, for example, migrants need to be given accommodation and health care.

The day will include the reading of a declaration summing up the group's concerns and demands for change.

It is summed up by the words: "Stop investing in walls and start investing in people."

Refugees were made to leave the Jungle in Calais when it closed in 2016. Picture copyright SWNS (South West News Service).
Refugees were made to leave the Jungle in Calais when it closed in 2016. Picture copyright SWNS (South West News Service).

Barbara Kentish, interim coordinator for People Not Walls, said: “We’ve come together in an act of solidarity across the Channel, calling on the French and British governments to bring about meaningful change. It’s time to show that love knows no borders.”

Hisham Aly, Coordinator of Secours Catholique in Calais, said: “We’re calling for unequivocal respect for the human rights and dignity for all those seeking a better future or sanctuary from oppression, persecution and conflict.

"We’re convinced that a different reality is possible, and call on the two governments to start investing in people, not walls.”

Maddy Allen, Field Coordinator at Help Refugees, said: “It's abhorrent that the British and French governments continue to treat vulnerable people with such disdain. We've decided enough is enough.

"We're joining forces to make sure our respective Governments act within the law, and in line with their international obligations.”

The cross-Channel migrant problem has gone on over the last couple of decades with migrants often trying to reach Britain by stowing away in lorries and lately by arriving in dinghies and rigid-hulled inflatable boats.

Landings, or arrivals by rescue, have happened at Dover, Kingsdown, Folkestone and Romney Marsh.

It has continued even with the closure of the notorious Jungle migrant camp in October 2016, which at its height had up to 10,000 people.

These people continue to live in squalor in smaller camps on the French coast waiting for their chance to reach Britain.

The now-twin memorials at Dover. (6046399)
The now-twin memorials at Dover. (6046399)

Events begin at 12.30pm today with a gathering at the migrants' memorial at Townwall Street, Dover, near the Premier Inn.

This is for those who have died in attempts to cross the Channel including 58 Chinese who perished in the back of a lorry arriving at Dover in 2000.

A vigil opposite the port entrance takes place at 1pm. The protesters will visit the Samphire migrant headquarters at Castle Street, Dover, at 2.30pm.

At 4.30pm those at Dover will make Skype and Messenger contact with their counterparts at Calais.

At 5.45pm there will be a gathering at St Margaret's-at-Cliffe Parish Church as the village is closest to the French coast.

A World Refugee Day Service will then take place at 6pm with a similar event taking place at the Plage Bleriot beach at Calais.

At 7.10pm there will be a lantern walk on the White Cliffs.

At 7.30pm a banner will be displayed and the People Not Walls declaration will be read.

Events end at 8pm on both sides of the Channel.

Groups involved also include L'Auberge des Migrants, the Diocese of Canterbury and Refugee Rights Europe.

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