02:10PM, Wednesday 21 February 2018
A church minister and his wife are returning to France to encourage others to show their altruistic side and help refugees during Lent.
The Rev David Downing and his wife Jo, from Marlow, were part of a delegation of faith leaders from Maidenhead who visited Calais last August to see the work of charities helping refugees trying to enter the UK.
The 46-year-old minister at Maidenhead’s United Reformed Church, West Street, said: “It would be great if every day during Lent someone was volunteering in Calais. We think it’s been forgotten about.
“The only time you hear about the camp is when there is trouble, so we want to raise awareness.”
The couple left on Sunday for a week-long trip volunteering at the camp. Although the so-called Jungle migrant camp in Calais was shut down in 2016, hundreds of asylum seekers remain, still hoping to make it to Britain.
Mr Downing said they would be helping out in a warehouse and with food preparation, where they serve 2,000 meals every day.
He said only a small number of refugees to the European Union want to come to this country – about two per cent.
“I think that there’s a perception that they are all want to get to England,” he said. “They really don’t.
“It’s a small minority and some have the legal right. But the process is so delayed and backwards that it make it harder for those that do. There not enough people speeding up the process.
“And we’ll be working with the Prime Minister so that what systems are in place that can be made more effective,” he added.
Vanessa Faulkner, of Marlow Refugee Action Group, who is supporting the project, said: “The refugee crisis in Calais is still a big problem and as a group of churches we felt that Lent is a time when you examine what you’re doing and find ways to serve God more.
“We felt this was a good opportunity for people not to do what they might normally do, like giving up chocolate or reading the Bible more, but stepping out and doing more to help people in need.”
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