The small port of Folkestone was swept away by icy squalls on Monday 6 December. The fishing boats have remained quietly at the quayside, the shop of the only fishmonger in this town, located a few kilometers south of Dover, is empty. Nobody either in the pretty steep streets that lead to the city center, disfigured by a huge shopping center. There will probably not have been any attempts to cross by inflatable boats on this day. On November 24, the sea was calm, yet 27 migrants drowned in the cold waters of the English Channel – the “Channel”, as they say here – one of the busiest sea routes in the world.
“As soon as the weather permits, the crossings resume and a large number of people arrive suddenly. Conditions are terrible in Calais, the migrants make as many attempts as possible to come ”, notes Bridget Chapman, spokesperson for Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN). She is one of the linchpins of this NGO created in 2003, the main association of aid to migrants in the county of Kent, the gateway for asylum seekers in the United Kingdom. Dynamic and talkative, this ex-London teacher settled in Folkestone in the mid-2010s: “I moved to find cheaper accommodation, I am a real economic migrant. “
The NGO specializes in helping young people under 18, unaccompanied minors. Of the approximately 26,000 people who have crossed the Channel since early 2021 (a record), they represent around 10% of arrivals and are almost the only ones remaining in Kent. When migrants disembark, often escorted by British customs or rescue boats at sea, they are taken care of by the Home Office at a reception center in Dover, where they lodge their asylum application. Then adults and families are dispersed by bus to other regions, mainly the Midlands and the north of England. The low, “They are taken care of by private providers who house them where the rents are the cheapest”, explains Bridget Chapman.
Psychological support, sport and English lessons
Unaccompanied minors are placed with foster families. But the older ones, who are 16 or 17 years old, are housed alone in Folkestone or in neighboring towns. It is they, a few hundred in Kent, that KRAN is supporting. The NGO provides them with psychological support, offers them sports and educational activities, visits them …
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In Kent, KRAN watches over young migrants crossing the Channel