LAST week I spent two days visiting migrants in Calais and quickly came to the conclusion that British government policy is not working. A great deal of money has been spent on walls and fencing to keep migrants away from lorries.

An extra 1,200 police keep the estimated 400 to 500 migrants under close scrutiny and make boarding a lorry much more difficult. Yet this has just forced migrants into the hands of people smugglers paying to board lorries in Paris or Brussels or desperately trying to stowaway aboard a UK bound lorry.

The migrants receive no support from the local authority and are harassed by the police. Some move to Paris or elsewhere in France but nothing will force them back to their native land or crush their desire to come to the UK.

A survey carried out earlier this year asked migrants why they did not want to seek asylum in France.

Some 33 per cent felt unsafe in France; 21 per cent wanted to join family and friends elsewhere; and a further 23 per cent were put off by the treatment they had received in France.

They have no option but to live outdoors. They have no shelter from the weather. It is left to voluntary agencies such as Secours Catholique to supply food, clothing and sleeping bags.

The police remove tents, confiscate sleeping bags and have even tried to stop the aid agencies distributing food.

Among these migrants are unaccompanied minors. It had been hoped that the Dubs Amendment would enable 3,000 unaccompanied minors to come to the UK. Only a few hundred have been allowed in.

Lord Dubs had said “The way that unaccompanied refugee children are being treated in Europe is a disgrace. Governments must take action to ensure their safety”.

Sadly, the treatment of minors in Calais remains a disgrace.

The Dublin III regulation allows those with close family in the UK to enter and have their asylum claim heard, although the process is very slow and cumbersome.

Without official assistance, it is left to voluntary agencies such as Safe Passage to help.

In Calais, I met a group of Ethiopians and Eritreans, orthodox Christians and deeply religious, welcoming and friendly.

Brother Johannes from the Catholic Workers House was asked for a cross and he gave out rosary beads.

As we sat in front of a makeshift camp fire, on a bitterly cold morning, I was reminded that the people we label as “migrants”, “refugees” or “asylum seekers” are, first and foremost, our fellow human beings who should be treated with dignity, welcomed and given shelter as they wait for asylum.

The numbers in Calais are small compared to the worldwide refugee crisis and those who wish to come to the UK should be able to apply from Europe.

The British policy of doing all we can to reject these migrants demeans our country and undermines our humanity and the humanity of those in need.

The memory that I take with me from Calais is of the cold seeping into my bones as I stood on the street talking to migrants, followed by the relief that comes from going indoors and the warmth and heat.

I left with feelings of sadness, guilt and shame. There was sadness that the migrants I left behind are without warm homes.

In addition, there was guilt, from knowing that an accident of birth left me privileged to live in the country they wish to enter.

And there was shame, that my country was so unwilling to share that privilege with others.