Every year as temperatures rise and we enter the summer period we see the number of new families with small children rapidly begin to rise. Seeing these children each day is a constant reminder of the uprooted childhoods they suffer.
Childhoods spent in exile. We meet children who have spent several years in other European countries only for their family’s asylum claims to be denied and their fragile roots pulled up again, forcing them back into dangerous and traumatising refuge-seeking journeys.
They come to us acting as translators for their grown-ups, having learned English along the way. We feel a mix of awe and sorrow seeing them shoulder such responsibility at such young ages. No time or space remains for childhood innocence; they cannot be shielded from the pain or the reality of their situation.
Babies born in exile. Having spent 9 months absorbing their mother’s stress and trauma, their introduction to the world is danger and uncertainty. Their parents unable to keep them safe.
Teens travelling alone, young boys but also girls. So-called "unaccompanied minors” which so many along their journeys dismiss as being children at all. Their formative years are spent searching for safety, finding a place they can fit in and pursue their dreams. Instead they find dangerous environments where their age makes them prey and their right to protection as children is denied.
The lone children we meet wish to go to the UK. There is no way to claim asylum without being in the country. There are no special allowances, no help. So they survive in the same camps, make the same life-threatening journeys and are victims to the same hostile environment. These children access our services, we supply them with shelter and clothing as we would for anyone else. But they are children, and they shouldn’t have to.
Once they reach the UK they face cruel and gruelling age assessments. The courage they demonstrated through danger and trauma is used against them. "If you crossed so many borders and survived alone, are you really a child?"
We believe these children’s stories must be heard. All of them. Including teenagers, because they are children too.
Yesterday saw yet another huge eviction of the largest camp in the Dunkirk area. As usual the French authorities destroyed huge amounts of equipment, including peoples personal belongings.
Fortunately our team were on-site later in the day, distributing all of the necessary items to ensure no-one was forced to sleep without shelter.