Claims have been made that there were Iranian Jewish refugees in the Calais jungle in the last six months – but nobody wants to talk about it, writes Jenni Frazer.
Last week a group of Orthodox rabbis and imams visited the camp in a first-of-its-kind interfaith delegation. At least two of the rabbis, Rabbi Avraham Pinter and Rabbi Herschel Gluck, were visibly from the strictly Orthodox community – both men wore black frock-coats, large black hats, and sported long beards.
A volunteer with one of the aid charities that work in the camp was surprised at the presence of the rabbis. “There’s nobody here for them to visit, surely?” she said. But another volunteer told Jewish News that as recently as last summer there had been “a handful” of identifying Iranian Jews in the camp, although he did not believe they were still there. He knew, he said, of an Iranian Jew from London who had come out to visit the Jewish refugees and help them directly. He had met them himself, he said.
Further inquiries by this newspaper, however, hit a blank wall. Vice-president of the European Jewish Congress Edwin Shuker, who is Iraqi-born, serves as a conduit for many issues relating to Jews from Arab lands.
He was bemused by the story and said: “The majority of Iranian Jews who wish, can and do go to the USA, and no Iranian Jew would want to come to Europe.” Later, Shuker said: “I have dealt with a couple of laughable claims in the past few years.
There are some people who believe claiming to be Jews strengthen their asylum applications.” Meanwhile the volunteer who had supplied the original information told Jewish News he had made contact with the Iranian Jew in London. “For various reasons”, he said, the man “does not want to talk to the press. This is often the case around this issue. It is often frustrating”.
So one of three things may be the case: there were refugees, pretending to be Jews; there were no such refugees; or there really were Iranian Jews in the Calais jungle last summer – and no one knows where they have gone.