LAST Sunday (Oct 16), a group of International Politics PhD students organised a novel event to express support for unaccompanied refugee children in Calais. The ‘Balloon Pop’ took place in the grounds of Aberystwyth Castle.
Braving the cold evening wind and rain, participants wrote messages of support on balloons.
The messages included ‘Refugees Welcome’, ‘All Kids Matter’, and ‘Children are Innocent’. With the sun setting over a stormy Cardigan Bay, the balloons were burst in a big group ‘pop’.
The burst balloons were then collected and sent to Home Secretary Amber Rudd, along with a letter calling for the United Kingdom to do more to help the children on the Calais camp. The event was attended by more than 30 ‘poppers’, including children, students and residents of Aberystwyth.
CHILD PROTECTION CONCERNS
Over 1,000 unaccompanied refugee children are currently living in the Calais refugee camp known as the Jungle. Evictions by the French authorities are scheduled to commence in the coming days, raising severe child protection concerns. Following a previous eviction earlier this year, an estimated 129 refugee children were reported to have gone missing. In this context, three PhD students of International Politics from Aberystwyth University decided it was time to, quite literally, make some noise.
Under the Dublin Agreement and Dubs Amendment, the United Kingdom has committed to welcoming unaccompanied refugee children. The former agreement provides reunification rights to unaccompanied children with family ties in the UK, while the latter allows for the resettlement of vulnerable unaccompanied children without family ties. Home Secretary Amber Rudd has reaffirmed her commitment to welcoming refugee children and a handful of children from Calais with family ties in the United Kingdom have started to arrive in the country. It remains unclear how many children will be relocated, however. Given that over one thousand unaccompanied refugee children are present in Calais, the Aberystwyth student group believe more action is needed to protect the lives and well-being of all unaccompanied refugee children in Calais, regardless of family ties.
One of the balloon pop organisers, Karijn van den Berg, told The Herald: “The sound of popping balloons, sadly, is only too reminiscent of the primary cause of displacement of many of these refugee children, who fled countries at war to the sound of gunfire and explosions. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which both France and the United Kingdom are parties, states that ‘a child temporarily or permanently deprived of his or her family environment shall be entitled to special protection and assistance provided by the State’. Where is this special protection and assistance for the unaccompanied refugee children of Calais?”
UK GOVERNMENT STIRS
On Monday (Oct 17), 14 teenagers arrived in the UK from the jungle camp in Calais ahead of its looming demolition. The transfer of the vulnerable children, aged from 14 to 17, was confirmed by the Home Office. France’s Minister of the Interior, Bernard Cazeneuve, has called on the UK to fulfil its moral duty to Calais’ unaccompanied children: “From the point of view of some in France, the Calais migrants’ misery is entirely down to the selfishness of the British government.
“London, they believe, is hiding behind the Le Touquet agreements governing controls on entry from continental Europe to the UK. They accuse the UK of using these agreements in an unscrupulous way, as a means of refusing to take in refugees fleeing conflicts in the Middle East, including unaccompanied children with family connections in the UK. The first transfers of young people with close relatives in the UK begin this week, while France has agreed to take in 13,000 refugees. The British government now needs to intensify its efforts to identify and resettle child migrants.”
The founders of the ‘Balloon Pop’ have no illusions that an envelope of burst balloons will be sufficient to sway the policies of the United Kingdom. They hope, though, that their action showed the world that, across the country, people care; that Britain, despite appearances, has not lost its humanity.
Communities and staff thanked for flood support
COMMUNITIES and staff have been thanked for their work during the Storm Callum Floods. The October floods caused great damage to homes, businesses, roads and bridges in the south of Ceredigion. The floods were the biggest flood event in the last 31 years in Ceredigion.
During the flooding, the council supported the emergency services to prioritise the saving of lives. This included making sure that roads and bridges made dangerous by floodwater were closed. The council’s emergency response and recovery procedures were carried out during the event. Multi-agency emergency procedures were also carried out.
Ceredigion County Council Chief Executive, Mr Eifion Evans said, “Council staff went above and beyond their duties over the weekend of the floods. I saw their efforts with my own eyes; staff who weren’t on duty were offering to come in to help our residents. We had to send some staff home as they wanted to work longer than the 12 hour maximum that staff are allowed to work in one shift.
I have also been impressed by the huge efforts made by communities to help each other during, and in the aftermath of the flooding.”
After water levels dropped, council staff from Community Wellbeing, Housing and Highways Teams immediately went to the affected areas to offer practical support and advice. They also saw the extent of the damage that had been caused.
Everyone who has been in touch with the council has been offered help with housing, including being offered emergency temporary accommodation where needed. The Housing Team have worked with local landlords and B&B owners to provide additional accommodation, and to provide ongoing support for people who have been affected by the flood.
The Community Wellbeing Team have also provided advice and specialist equipment to residents to help to begin to dry out their homes. This support is ongoing.
The council organised drop-in sessions in Lampeter, Newcastle Emlyn, Llandysul and Llechryd. The sessions were attended by many organisations that can offer support and advice. The sessions gave residents the chance to ask the organisations any questions they had about recovering from the flood.
The Highways Team have arranged a free service to pick-up and dispose of flood damaged materials and have put skips in local household waste sites for flood damaged possessions. The team also cleared 100 tons of earth from the B4459 near Capel Dewi after a landslide covered the road. The Highways Team also repaired damaged roads and bridges.
Mr Evans continued, “The council is dedicated to helping our residents recover from the devastating effects of the recent floods. I understand that the impact is still very raw for people who have been affected, especially those who have been made homeless. I want to reassure every resident that our committed staff are working hard to help you. Despite severe pressure on council budgets, we will do everything in our power to continue to offer practical help to residents.”
A flood recovery group has met regularly to look at how the Council can target help in the most effective way. A further flood newsletter will be published in the near future. The Council will also be hosting flood advice surgeries and building on the work of developing emergency support groups for flooding.
More information about the help the council can offer is available on the website on www.ceredigion.gov.uk/stormcallumfloods
Training company enjoy successful open evening
HYFFORDDIANT CEREDIGION TRAINING (HCT) enjoyed a successful open evening on November 7 as it opened its doors to the public.
Opening HCT’s doors gave people the opportunity to see the fantastic range of training opportunities available for them. This included opportunities for young people who are interested in seeing what apprenticeships HCT has to offer.
Mark Gleeson, Manager for Post 14 Vocational Learning said, “It is important that HCT holds open evenings to showcase different learning opportunities that are available to all learners. HCT offers a large number of apprenticeships which ensures that the next generation of skilled workforce is being trained and employed by local companies. This is very important to the economy of Ceredigion.”
There was an opportunity to have a tour of the building, to speak to tutors, to have a look at the workshops, and to see trainees and apprentices in action. This gave a flavour of the kind of work that is done daily at the training centre.
Traineeships and apprenticeships, but also evening classes, are taught at HCT, as Councillor Catrin Miles, Cabinet Member for Learning Service and Lifelong Learning explains, “If studying towards a full qualification in a given trade is not what you are after, but you want to gain some of the basic skills in the various routes HCT specialises in, why not join an evening class? The next round of evening courses are beginning now. So, what are you waiting for? Contact HCT to see what it has to offer you.”
Evening classes run for six weeks and HCT offers these 2-3 times per year. HCT offers a range of vocational courses for people of all ages, including Hairdressing, Childcare, Business Administration, Information Technology, Carpentry, Plumbing, Electrics, Blacksmithing, Agriculture, Motor Mechanics and Welding.
For more information, find ‘Hyfforddiant Ceredigion Training’ on Facebook, or visit the website, http://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/public-it/hct/index.html
Vandalism at coastguard lookout point
POLICE are investigating vandalism at the old coastguard lookout point at Bird’s Rock.
A council spokesperson said: “We’re very sad to see vandalism to the old coastguard look out at Bird’s Rock on the coastal path a mile to the west of New Quay last week.
“All five windows was smashed – some even had their wooden frames ripped out.”
Melanie Heath, Ceredigion County Council’s Marine Protected Area Officer, added: “This act of vandalism is so distressing to see. The look-out was restored thanks to a special grant from the Crown Estate. It is used by our Dolphin and Porpoise Watch volunteers throughout the monitoring season. It is also a special place for many local people and visitors alike to sit for a while and take in the spectacular views of Cardigan Bay.”
If anyone has any information, contact Heddlu Dyfed Powys Police on 101
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