Wrong time to take in refugees, says minister

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Deputy Carolyn Labey said that Jersey Overseas Aid continued to ‘play its part’ in supporting refugees but that the time was not right to revisit whether Jersey could offer homes for them.

Earlier this week, at least 27 people, some of them children, attempting to reach the UK drowned after their boat sank near Calais. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was ‘appalled’ by the incident, contending that human-trafficking gangs were ‘literally getting away with murder’.

Islander Emily Smith, who spent time in Calais with Jersey Cares Refugee Aid Group, Jersey activist Natalie Strecker and JEP columnist Ollie Taylor all believe that the Island could offer a safe haven for some refugees.

During a recent Ask the Ministers event, Home Affairs Minister Gregory Guida said Jersey was ‘not a good place’ for refugees to land because of the Island’s housing crisis.

And Deputy Labey said: ‘The recent incident in the Channel is a tragic situation and it is absolutely heartbreaking. The Island’s view on refugees should be revisited every couple of years but, at this time, with our housing crisis, I am not so sure our community would welcome an influx of refugees.

‘If we are not prepared to take in people ourselves, it is tough to dictate to other countries how they should behave.’

She added: ‘As far as my responsibilities go, Jersey Overseas Aid is playing its part by supporting refugee communities in Afghanistan and Bangladesh.’

Ms Smith said that the Island needed to come up with an ‘urgent plan’ to help refugees.

She said: The most recent crossing is one of many incidents. We cannot just watch and let people die. A little girl just lost her life on that boat. How can you justify not helping?

‘I completely get that Jersey is a small place and we have a housing crisis but refugees should be treated as a completely separate issue. I am not saying we should take in thousands of families but if we could take in a few, we would be playing our part.

‘Even if we acted as a stopgap between England and France and helped people to get across to the UK safely, we would be doing something to help.’

And Ms Strecker said that Jersey had a ‘moral obligation’ to help people, rather than ‘letting people die in our seas’.

She said: ‘Have we learnt nothing from history? Islanders fled Jersey during the Occupation and were taken in and helped. You should treat others as you wish to be treated so why are we not helping these people?’

Meanwhile, Mr Taylor said Jersey either ‘starts to act now with compassion for our fellow humans or creates a world and future where mass migratory death will be the norm’.

‘I think it’s more a case of Jersey lobbying and putting pressure on the UK government to put in place measures that allow and provide safe passage for refugees trying to cross the Channel from France, some of whom will be fleeing Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover. Jersey should also be looking to update its legal system to allow the Island to take in refugees and play our part,’ he added.

A group of Islanders is hosting a ‘Collection for Christmas Refugee Aid Trip to Calais’ for which people are encouraged to donate clothes which will be taken to France and given to migrants in Calais.

Any donations can be taken to the Care Hub Jersey office in Don Street, St Helier, between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

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