On my journeys last weekend I was reading with disappointment the report from Labour Peer Lord Dubs that not a single child refugee promised sanctuary in the UK has arrived since the scheme was set up last May. Lord Dubs was himself an escapee from Nazi Germany thanks to the Kindertransport programme. But my heart was then warmed through a chance encounter with a marvellous programme for refugee children run by charities and the local Canary Island government.
I wondered who the rather excited and noisy youngsters were on my plane coming into La Palma from Tenerife North on Saturday. It turned out that the children were from refugee camps near Tindouf in SW Algeria. I must admit that I was not aware that there are 165,000 refugees, “Sahrawi” people, who have been living in these camps for 40 years! The camps are in a very inhospitable region of the world; the summer temperature rises to more than 50 degrees. The landscape is nothing but sand.
Each year, children from the camps are brought to stay with Spanish families for about two months, July and August, to given them a chance to enjoy a fresher climate, the sea, and to receive medical and nutritional care, as well as to build friendships and cultural links for them beyond their refugee camp existence. The programme is called Vacaciones en Paz (holidays in peace). The love and solidarity shown by ordinary Canarian families was deeply moving.
Our parish priest on La Palma, the Revd Jennifer Elliott de Riverol, will be looking into possibilities for our Anglican community to assist with this programme in some way.
|Refugee Camp in Tindouf, Algeria. Photo by Jørn Sund-Henriksen, via Wikimedia Commons|