‘I Am Sorry for What We’ve Put You Through’: Lily Allen Apologises to Refugee, 13, in Calais
A powerful display of solidarity.
In a moving video released by the BBC, British singer-songwriter Lily Allen has apologised on behalf of her country for the plight of a 13-year-old refugee living in Calais’ “Jungle” camp.
Visiting the camp, which is set to be demolished in the coming weeks, Allen says: “I hope on a personal level to just see things for myself.”
“[I want] to humanise the people there. At the moment, all I read is all these articles that are very dehumanising about people and children.
“I’m a mother, I’ve got two little girls,” she says, explaining her personal motives for pursuing the trip in support of the charity Help Refugees. “If something happened in this country, to me and their dad, and they were displaced and had to make a run for it, I would really hope that other parts of the world were a little bit more helpful than we seem to be being.”
“I don’t think anyone would choose to live in the Jungle,” she said.
During her visit, Allen spoke to a 13-year-old Afghan boy who has been living in Calais for two months. He is one of 1,022 unaccompanied children still stuck in Calais. After fleeing both the Taliban and IS, the Afghan teenager is determined to reach the UK, risking danger by jumping onto the backs of vans and lorries crossing the Channel.
“Last night we got onto the lorries and hid,” he tells the singer. “The police caught us, they started to kick us and they slapped me.”
When she asks why he is taking such risks when he has a legal right to enter the UK and join his father, who he believes lives in Birmingham, he replies:
“The legal process is very slow. You wait for at least three or four months. The way I am trying works better.”
Despite the difficult odds he faces, the 13-year-old is determined to secure a better future. Describing his hopes for life in the UK, he says: “I will go to school when I get there. I am illiterate. I want to learn so I can build my future.”
Visibly moved by the boy’s statement, Allen apologises for the trauma he has experienced.
“At three different intervals in [your] life, the English in particular have put you in danger,” the singer said.
“We’ve bombed your country, put you in the hands of the Taliban, and are now putting you at risk, risking your life to get into our country. I apologise on behalf of my country. I’m sorry for what we’ve put you through,” she said.
While her apology has sparked a fierce backlash on Twitter, Allen’s display of compassion and empathy echoes the sentiments of many who feel that so far, the country has let down the vulnerable children on its doorstep.
After months of pressure from MPs, peers in the House of Lords, religious leaders, charities and people across the country, the UK government has promised to speed up the process of resettling lone child refugees in Calais with their family in Britain.
@lilyallen thank you for your compassion. Thank you for the apologising on behalf of us all; the UK, the human race. We NEED to do more.— Tashaaaaaaaa (@thisis_tasha) October 12, 2016
The @lilyallen backlash is horrendous. Attacking her because she's upset at the horrific conditions that these CHILDREN are living in? Nice.— Kelsey Reanne Lewis (@KelseyReanne) October 12, 2016
Over half of the world's 65 million refugees are children. The failure to respond to the needs of these children is a failure of the global community.
If only those outraged by Allen's words would target their outrage at this devastating reality.