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Deal's Seeking Sanctuary backs hunger strikers in Calais, including Catholic priest, 72, in asylum seeker issue


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An asylum seeker support group has come out in solidarity for three protesters who are on hunger strike.

Jesuit priest Fr Philippe Demeestère, 72, plus Anaïs Vogel, 35, and Ludovic Holbein, 38, are refusing food in Calais over, as they see it, the treatment of refugees by French authorities.

The hunger strikers. Picture: change.org
The hunger strikers. Picture: change.org

Their fast, at Saint Pierre church, began on October 11.

All three are from Secour Catholique, a French church group tackling poverty.

Ben Bano, of the Deal-based group Seeking Sanctuary, told KentOnline: "The issue of asylum seekers has gone on for years but there has very rarely been hunger strikes over it, least of all involving a 72-year-old priest.

"They are very brave and we at Seeking Sanctuary are offering moral support, keeping in touch with the situation and highlighting their cause.

"We understand they are living on liquids and vitamin pills, which is still risky for a man of that age."

Ben Bano of Seeking Sanctuary
Ben Bano of Seeking Sanctuary

The hunger strikers have three demands.

Firstly they want the stopping of the dismantling of asylum seekers camps during the winter, secondly no more confiscating of their tents and personal effects and finally full allowance of voluntary associations to distribute humanitarian aid to them.

Pro-refugee groups have asked the French authorities to return confiscated items such as blankets and clothes to charities so they can be passed back to their original owners.

Mr Bano believes the trio would keep fasting at least until November 2, when, by French law, people cannot be evicted because it is the wintertime.

By today (Tuesday) a total 25,682 people signed the petition supporting the hunger strikers and calling for the authorities to meet their demands. It is addressed to the French President Emmanuel Macron.

The hinger strike is in Calais. Stock image
The hinger strike is in Calais. Stock image

The outcry is also over tragedies asylum seekers have faced as they try to make it to the UK such as this month a 16-year-old Sudanese boy who died in Calais trying to get onto the back of a UK-bound lorry.

In August another boy of that nationality and age was found drowned and washed up on a French beach after trying to reach the UK.

They usually make their attempts by going over the English Channel in dinghies.

So far this year more than 18,000 have made it across the sea, landing on beaches on the East Kent coast.

The Tug Haven at Dover Western Docks where rescued asylum seekers are first brought. Picture: Sam Lennon
The Tug Haven at Dover Western Docks where rescued asylum seekers are first brought. Picture: Sam Lennon

They are otherwise rescued on the British side of the Channel by the Border Force and initially brought to the Tug Haven area of Dover Western Docks for interview and processing.

The petition can be found by clicking here and can be changed to English online via Google Translate.

We have closed the ability to comment on this story due to the number of abusive and racist posts received on this topic.

We appreciate it is a very divisive issue but must ensure our comments adhere to house rules.

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