Bishop Robert has sent a message of support and the assurance of his prayers to the Pas de Calais congregations after fire that engulfed the Grande-Synthe refugee camp near Dunkerque, in the early hours of Tuesday morning leaving people injured and homeless.

The Bishop thanked the congregations for the relationships they have been building with various charities and aid agencies who minister to the growing number of refugees in the area. Since the dismantling of the Jungle in Calais, last October, large numbers of migrants have returned to the Northern French coast.

He has also written to Canon Debbie Flach, Area Dean of Northern France, to assure her and our people there of our on-going concern and prayer. He writes

“I awoke this morning to the terrible news of the fire in the refugee camp at Grande-Synthe. I know how hard you, and the people of the Pas de Calais chaplaincy, have been working to support the refugees and those agencies who are offering them security and shelter. I am very grateful for all you have done, and all that, I know, you will want to do in the future.

“I recognise that the events of last night will bring added uncertainty and will place greater demands on all for whom the welfare of the refugees is paramount. If you think there are ways in which I can make appropriate representations, please let me know. In the meantime, it goes without saying that you, your people, and the many people now made homeless by this fire are very much in my prayers.”

The Archdeacon of France, Ven Meurig Williams, who visited the Grande-Synthe camp earlier this year, expressed his concern for the 1500 migrants who are now homeless as a result of the fire. “There were more people living in the Grande-Synthe camp than those occupying the Jungle in Calais and now that their temporary homes have been reduced to ashes, there will be large numbers of refugees seeking safety and shelter in the towns between Dunkerque and Calais along the Northern French coast.”

Archdeacon Meurig said that the Grande-Synthe camp, when first opened, had been a flagship for international standards, but had become steadily overcrowded and tense. adding “‘Until now, the growing numbers of migrants returning to Northern France have been contained and out-of-sight but they will now be more visible which will require a humane response to this escalating situation, above and beyond erecting more fences.”