Published: 00:00, 13 October 2016
| Updated: 09:36, 13 October 2016
An old mobile phone stuffed in the back of a kitchen drawer could save a child’s life.
That is according to a grassroots group urging people from across Kent to donate devices to vulnerable refugee youngsters in the Calais Jungle.
With the full demolition of the camp set to take place on Monday, the group says the demand is urgent.
It claims there are now more than 1,000 unaccompanied minors living in dismal conditions across the Channel and a phone which may not have been used for months could be a lifeline.
The campaign is part of a national initiative emphasising the need for donations, which was highlighted by a story which hit the national press earlier this year involving a seven-year-old Afghan boy called Ahmed.
Ahmed and 14 adults had begun to suffocate in the back of a sealed truck they were travelling in from the jungle to the UK.
It was only because of Ahmed using a phone given to him by a charity and texting an aid worker in broken English to say they had run out of ‘oksijan’, meaning oxygen, that the authorities were informed and the group was rescued.
Gavin McGregor, of Plantation Road, Faversham, is helping to collect the phones and says Ahmed’s story is a perfect example of why this movement is so important.
“Back in February when the French authorities went in and demolished half the camp, more than 100 children went missing. They have never been found." - Gavin McGregor
He said: “With the further demolition of the camp looming, these children can be swept to four winds and it would be impossible to make sure they are all safe, so there is now a big effort to make sure every unaccompanied child is given a phone.
“Back in February when the French authorities went in and demolished half the camp, more than 100 children went missing. They have never been found.
“The possibilities of what happened to them are just horrific. Europol have said that refugee children who go missing are highly likely to be sold into slavery or sexual slavery. It is one of the biggest child abuse crises in history.
“These kids are as young as seven or eight and have often seen both their parents killed.”
Mr McGregor says a child who is in immediate danger can use a phone to call for help – either from an adult volunteer or the emergency services.
He added: “If they have a smart phone they can use the map and if they can get Wi-fi they can keep in touch with remaining relatives in other parts of the world, or retrieve important information.”
There is some Wi-fi in the Calais Jungle, albeit patchy, which the youngsters can use.
Anyone in Faversham who has a phone they wish to donate can fill out this form here to arrange a collection or, if in Canterbury, call Rizwan on 07593 598455. Contact Helen in Deal/Aylesham on firstname.lastname@example.org
Anyone who wants to buy a cheap smart phone to donate can click here and send directly to Natalie Sloan, 66 Lynmouth Road, London E17 8AQ, who will ensure that they reach Calais.
To top up a refugee’s phone credit click here.
If possible, please supply a protective case and charger.
Mr McGregor added: “It is very urgent. There are lives at stake and that old phone in a drawer you haven’t touched for years could save a life.”