The Jungle: Ramblings of a mission to
Calais 'refugee' Camp
Wednesday, 30 September 2015
This should explain a few things...
Writing helps me immensely – its my form of therapy. These are my thoughts, words, experiences and feelings of what happened in the Jungle. I have taken the decision not to give names, which might make things a bit confusing at times, because I do not have permission. Even the names of my travelling friends are missing. I cannot speak for how anyone else perceives their experiences. I can only speak for me. While writing this, I’ve experienced every emotion possible. I own what I’ve written here. I take responsibility.
There are no photographs. I have shared a few photos on my Facebook account but I won’t be sharing any here on the basis that somehow it feels like you are a tourist when you take photos. I didn’t take that many and I’d feel almost disrespectful by sharing the ones I do have. The photos that I haven’t shared are private and personal. If you want to see the Jungle in its glory, by all means Google Images has many. I don’t mean that to sound bad – images are important but I don’t feel my photos will add anything which hasn’t been shared already many times.
First a bit about how I got here. I’m a mum of two grown up daughters. I’ve spent the last 20 years involved in animal rights campaigning. I am adopted mum to six rescued greyhounds and three rescued hens. I’ve worked in housing/homelessness for many years and miraculously finished an MSc in Housing in June. I’m married to the love of my life (after my hounds of course) and live in Haddington, East Lothian. I’ve previously been to Tanzania, Ghana and Sri Lanka to work with people with different charities. I’ve read a lot about conflict. I’ve read more books and visited more WW2 war sites than I can name.
I tell people that I prefer dogs to humans but truth be told, I like people too as long as they’re not bigoted, arrogant, superior or treat other people/animals poorly. I try not to notice injustice in the media. This is on the basis that I get involved – too involved people say. I knew about the refugee crisis. I didn’t want to pay attention because I knew what would happen. Then those scenes. Unlike anyone else, it wasn’t the little boy that bothered me – of course it did. But it was the scenes at the railway station in Budapest that shocked me to the core.
I started pestering people about the situation by email and had a plan to set up a collection point for clothing and items in my house. Given the generosity of the people of East Lothian, I’m more than relieved now that our MP stepped in and opened his office. We spent some time helping there and every spare minute reading and emailing and trying to work out what to do. I was frustrated, upset and felt the need to do more. I somehow found myself agreeing to go on a fact-finding mission to the camp they call ‘The Jungle’ in Calais with five people that I didn’t know. The reason for our trip was to take some items that were donated, make contacts with people on the ground and work out how we can help.
We left the next day. There were two vans with three people in each that headed off. One van and its passengers were staying two nights, we weren’t sure how long we would be staying.
We arrive a day late. Thats a long story! We get emotional from the first sighting of ‘that’ fence – the one that makes the “Jungle” look like a concentration camp. Three fences that stretch forever with razor wire at the top. The fence that cost an obscene amount of money. Money that could have been poured into helping rather than controlling the people who reside in the Jungle.
The main road in to the Jungle is blocked off by French police in full riot gear. Then a text comes through from a trusted volunteer advising of trouble in the camp this morning. We’re not quite sure what has happened but there are lots of police. This could be normal, we’re not sure. The camp from the main road looks just awful and we’re all visibly shaken. We spend ages driving around trying to find the only access left to the Jungle. Eventually we get there.
We are picked up almost immediately by a volunteer who drives us over the sandy banks into the hub of the camp. My initial impressions are that it looks just like the settlements I’d previously seen in Ghana and Tanzania except this is tents and wooden structures with tarpaulin over them, not mud huts. But this is France in 2015. Just 23 miles away from the UK. It just blows my mind.
Three of us are sent out to look for women. Its clothing distribution day for women so we need to let them know where to go. We start to walk through the Jungle looking for women and immediately get caught up in other things.
We meet a 27 year old Syrian man. He is in shock. He tells us, in perfect English, that his mother sent him away from Damascas because she was frightened for his safety. His sister, her husband and his two nieces had already been killed. He tells us that his mother still remains in Syria. She isn’t capable of making the journey to “safety” and her only option is to go to neighbouring Lebanon where the camps are described as much worse than the Jungle as they are overcrowded and cramped with few resources. Conditions there are apparently awful and her health issues mean that its very unlikely she would survive.
As we speak to the man, he tells us that his eyes are sore. He tells us he was camped on the fringes of the Jungle and at 6 a.m. this morning, he was woken by the French police firing tear gas canisters amongst the tents. He was then hauled out of the tent and marched, by the police, into the perimeter of the Jungle. A bulldozer then came and destroyed all his possessions and he only had the clothing he stood in. I am close to tears as I ask him why the French police did this. He says ‘we’re animals – its fine’. I tell him its not fine – its anything but fine. I have to turn away because I can feel the tears of outrage that an articulate and intelligent young man, who would be an absolute asset to any country which he settles in, feels that he is subhuman.
It became apparent it isn’t just a few people that had been woken up in such a manner. There are nearly 300 individuals, mainly from Syria and fleeing the devastation of war, all left with only the clothing they stand in. Some had even lost their documentation – everything they possessed was gone. The French police wouldn’t allow them to return to collect any of their belongings. They had no shelter. We quickly set to work trying to source things for them.
We have brought a huge army marquee. Problem is that we don’t know how to put this up – its massive. It will provide much needed shelter. We meet more volunteers and they come to help us. Some of the guys who live in camp help too.
I use the term ‘live’ but I really want to say ‘exist’. The solidarity within communities is quite amazing and lots of the displaced-by-the-French-police Syrians have already found some shelter with other people in the camp. Others are lucky enough to get donations. Our tent will provide shelter for a few nights.
We have a van full of items brought from home deemed to be necessary items such as waterproof coats. We learn quickly that if you spend time in the camp before you attempt distribution, recruit your own ‘security team’ (all of which are rewarded by giving them other items that we don’t have a lot of such as torches and gloves), ensure the lines are kept in order and take your time, you can distribute easily. What doesn’t sit right with me is the dehumanising aspect of queues. We discuss options for this but there is no solution that we can think of at this stage. We know we have items which are needed – we just aren’t quite sure how to get them to the people who need them.
Unfortunately there are lots of people who come to the Jungle with ‘aid’ and are overwhelmed or bring the wrong items. Then there are piles of discarded items. Some people simply dump the goods they’ve brought and run. This results in an increasing problem with litter in the jungle. Facilities to discard waste, such as black bags, are in short supply. Since we left Calais, a team came in from Sheffield and cleared the site with rubbish and handed out bin bags. Amazing work!
I don’t have the strongest bladder in the world (too much information?!) so the only option is for me to use one of the few make-shift toilets that are in the camp. They’re just awful. My work in Ghana was all about toilets and health and these toilets were worse than anything I ever saw in rural Ghana. They’re just awful. Its a cholera outbreak waiting to happen. Raw sewerage is running into the streets. Some portaloos are there but these are also just awful. There is no other words – its just awful. There are some taps in the Jungle but most appear to leak. The amazing team of volunteers try to stay on top of the leaks to repair them and its these leaks that create a lot of puddles which in turn, make the roads around the camp very muddy.
I should explain more about the Jungle because sure as hell that the mainstream UK media won’t show you the reality. Its a piece of land reclaimed from the sea on the Eastern outskirts of the port of Calais. Its basically sand and dirt. The authorities put up an embankment on the only road into the Jungle. It now has a couple of entrances in these embankments where you can drive into the actual camp. The Jungle is an unofficial or illegal camp. This is why the mainstream charities can’t work there. Some tents and structures are better than others. Some will last the winter. Others won’t. When it rains, the roads turn to sludge. There are ‘lakes’ in the camp. A few are really just large puddles which never drain. The camp is divided loosely into sections according to nationality. People tend to live communally.
It should be noted that the camp changes constantly with new arrivals and departures. Estimates are that a year ago there were just 1.300 in the camp. That is thought to have risen to between 3,000 and 4,000 as of September 2015. As you can imagine, the population of a makeshift camp increasing as fast as this has led to real crisis in the camp due to the lack of resources.
Against general thought, there are people in the camp who don’t want to come to the UK. Some have claimed asylum in France and are awaiting the outcome. Some are employed in Calais. The reasons why they are there is irrelevant because they are there because its safer than home, they’ve all got stories to tell and they all want a life and a future. No one wants to be there. No one would choose to live there. Not one person I spoke to appeared aware of our welfare state or our social housing. When talking about the future, the priorities were finding their families, having dreams and aspirations and finding a job. What is wrong in that? All that I asked said they would return to their home country if they could in the future. Many still had family who hadn’t escaped. Some didn’t know if they were alive or dead.
The only important thing is that they are human beings in need living in conditions which are so far beyond unacceptable. And this is happening. In Western Europe. 23 miles from our shores.
I see people living in the Jungle and think that if my birth country was destroyed by bombs and my family, friends and community were being slaughtered, you are damn right I’d be out of here with my family to get them to safety. Somewhere they could live with no fear. This is what I fail to understand about people who lack compassion and empathy towards the crisis. What would they do in a similar situation?
There are lots of helicopters overhead. As night falls, we hear banging. I’m told to ignore this as its the police. I’m warned the internet and mobile phone signal in the camp is frequently turned off. Syrian sim cards don’t work. So many people are desperate to contact their families to let them know they are safe.
I meet a group of men from Afghanistan, it becomes apparent that they blame the Taliban and ISIS as the reason they have to flee their country rather than ‘our’ meddling in things. I will try to keep this non-political but there is a clue on where I stand on this issue.
A man hands one of our girls a bracelet for giving him a coat. It turns out these are Syrian Prayer Beads. She will treasure that gift from someone who had so little to give, yet wanted to say thank you.
There is something that feels wrong about heading to a hotel tonight. I think that we have felt every emotion possible today. We have some food at the hotel and although we should have been winding down, our discussion very much focuses on what we can do to help. I go to bed feeling guilty that I have a comfy bed and running water to shower in the morning. It just feels wrong.
Day 2 - Tear Gas and Solidarity
We’re up and out trying to sort out the van in the hotel car park so we can distribute more goods today. The aim is to sleep in the van but we can’t because its just so full. Its torrential rain which isn’t helping. The other van and volunteers are leaving today so we need to fit in the items from their van. They leave to catch their ferry home. Its just three of us left. On our way into the Jungle and the rain suddenly stops. On our arrival, it becomes apparent that there is something going on. There appears to be a lot more police on the main road at the other side of the Jungle.
We get our ‘security team’ and distribute some more donated goods. A young man comes along to ask if we have shoes. I speak to him. He’s 14 years old and from Afghanistan. He’s alone in the Jungle. How he got here is unclear but the Afghan community appear to be taking good care of him. We notice so many men wearing small flip flops – one man is wearing a pair of womens Birkenstocks which were at least three sizes too small. We have small mens boots and shoes as we had been told that was what was needed. It is apparent that we need all shoe and boots sizes. We simply didn’t have what people needed. I thought of winter approaching and remember reading that in Auschwitz, shoes were a priority as, without shoes, you died.
People are so grateful for everything we give them. One man is over the moon at Union Jack socks we give him and he wears them on his hands. We are asked for Scotland flags so that they can put them on their tents.
I meet a very polite man who is 34 and from Afghanistan. He speaks perfect English with a perfect English accent and is asking for shoes for his friend who is wearing flip flops but doesn’t appear to speak much English and appears quite shy. He tells me he was employed by the British Army in Afghanistan for 8 years as an interpreter. He shows me photos of him with British soldiers with his uniform and helmet on. He tells me there was a clause in his contract which allowed his employment to be terminated at any time. Which was exactly what had happened. He then had to return to his home. Working for the British Army wouldn’t have made him a popular guy and he had to leave very quickly because it wasn’t safe for him to remain.
Appalled is the word that describes my feelings about this. And, the worst part is, he actually wants to come to the UK. He likes ‘us’. He blames the Taliban for the situation though he does tell me the British Army took £60m from the Afghan economy before leaving. Not sure how factual that is and to be honest, I don’t want to know because this is just awful. Surely if the British Army employed him, the government should have had a duty of care to him and not dumped him in it? I’ve subsequently heard this kind of treatment by the UK state isn’t unique. I console myself with the thought that I’ve never considered myself as British. But actually its no consolation.
After we distribute, we head into camp to check our army marquee. Its obviously been slept in but there is no one around. We head towards the central ‘main street’. As we near the middle, close to the main road, there is a young man running past us. He looks like his nose and cheek are broken, he has no top on and he has cuts all over his back. We ask what is going on but there is no clear answer. We see a volunteer so go to speak to her. We’re told there is very high tension between the police and the people who live in the camp today. Community leaders are trying to sort things out. There are so many police in riot gear and so many police vans on the flyover above, under the flyover and on the main access road. Apparently there was some kind of traffic jam outside and people from the camp were trying to climb underneath lorries to get out of this hell that is the Jungle.
We see a group from the camp try to charge the police on the access road and stones being thrown, we start to run back to ‘main street’. One of us gets ahead but the number of people trying to run away creates a bottle neck. We hear bangs then smoke. As we run, we get to the junction at ‘main street’. Smoke appears just behind us and just in front of us. It becomes clear, we’re being hit by tear gas. I grab the girl I’m with and crouch down into a corner behind a shelter. Our eyes are streaming, we can’t see, we’re coughing with this acrid horrible smell and taste which is burning our eyes and mouths. We feel someone pull at us.
We’re led to a shelter. Tears are streaming down our faces and we are coughing heavily. Our rescuers are a group of men from Afghanistan. They stand in front of us and blow cigarette smoke in our eyes. At first I’m unsure what is going on but it helps and I start to be able to see again. But it still hurts. We drink water from the supply outside but this is taken off us by our rescuers and we’re told its unsafe. Meantime more gas canisters are being fired into the camp. My friend is crying, I’m swearing enough to make a sailor blush, then apologising to the Afghan men for teaching them words they shouldn’t be taught.
Anger doesn’t cover how I’m feeling towards the French authorities. Heavy handed would be an understatement. They fired into the camp. Not one person who was hit in the area I was in was involved in throwing anything. It was indiscriminate. There are children in the camp. I’m told this is normal – the police fire into the camp whenever there is a disturbance at the main road.
There is nothing normal about tear gas. Nothing.
I thank the men who helped us over and over and eventually once we feel better we make our way back to the van. We both have very sore eyes and are still coughing. I feel like I’ve been kicked in the ribs for several days afterwards.
As we walk back towards the van, several people pat us on the back. One man tells us he was going to go to church and pray for us because we are good people. He lived in the Jungle, the French authorities treat him like he’s not human and he wants to pray for us because we are good people? Although I’m not religious, it is touching and the tears that run down my face were not related to the tear gas. Everyone we passed knows we had been caught by the gas and it is almost like a show of solidarity. I feel more of an affiliation to the people in the camp than I ever will for the authorities who allow this to happen to them. These are human beings. It shouldn’t matter where they are born or the colour of their skin. No one deserves to feel the pain and discomfort tear gas causes.
Afterwards someone finds ten empty gas canisters. I believe three canisters are fired at once. This means at least 12 canisters were fired into the camp. And they were fired after the crowd who were throwing things dispersed. I hear that one of the canisters hit one man on the head. I understand this man is seriously injured. This is life in the Jungle.
Tensions are running very high in the camp and we see a group of men with sticks. Initially we think that they are heading for the police but then we are told that they are heading for the other side of the camp. The men were Kurdish and someone tells us its relating to a stolen bike which has led to them to go look for the Egyptians who they blame for stealing it. Bikes are highly desirable items in the Jungle. The van is parked in the middle of the camp. On one side, the road is blocked by the police. This leaves one exit – the exit that the men are headed towards with sticks. We know we have to leave as tensions are so high. We take our chances with the rival groups in camp and head away from the exit with the police. Fortunately the ‘fight’ between two groups hasn’t escalated and we safely leave the camp. I guess tensions are high, its pressurised living conditions and that is bound to cause contention between the many nationalities. Its human nature.
Along the back road out of camp, there are so many police around. People are being marched back into camp by the police. We go to a cafe to discuss our next move. What we witnessed today just feels surreal. 21st Century France. Did we learn nothing from World War 2 about dehumanising people? We choose not to return to camp tonight and will make a decision on whether we should head home in the morning.
Day 3 - A Memory
We learn early on that throughout the previous evening groups of people had arrived at the camp. Some being taken there by police, others just arriving from a treacherous and dangerous trip. Yesterday we had made some good contacts that would help us on our fact-finding mission. There were lots of tears and frustration yesterday which had been wiped out as we remembered how the men had taken care of us when we were incapacitated by the brutality of the French police. We agree to go into camp to see how things are.
We sort out our van and headed back to the Jungle. It is a beautiful day. All appears calmer and there is a marked reduction in the number of police overlooking the camp. But they are present. They are always present as is the constant helicopters and light aircraft that fly overhead.
We park up at the side of the back road into camp and are invited to sit on the embankment with some men from Sudan. One is playing a childs electronic Bob the Builder game. It turns out he is improving his English. We give him a pack of playing cards and it was almost like we’d given him the crown jewels – he was delighted. One of our trio sits with one young man and helps him read a childs book. His spoken English is excellent but he wants to improve his reading skills in the hope that this will improve employability if he ever realises his dream to make it to the UK.
Our men from Sudan agree to be our ‘security team’ and we start distribution. Three volunteers from North West England arrive and help us and we chat with them about our experiences. Like us, they are on a fact-finding mission for their local group. Some of our volunteers at the donation drop had the excellent idea of sorting out toiletries into carrier bags which contain a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap/shower gel and shampoo. We manage to distribute two large boxes of these. A few men immediately start to brush their teeth at the side of the road. Everyone who receives a toiletry bag is saying thank you.
After distributing and taking time to speak to various people in the camp, we leave for a while. We know there is someone we need to meet arriving in the camp from the UK in the evening.
On our return, two of us meet the men from Sudan and we are invited to sit with them. We take things from the van as gifts - we give food and other items we think may help them such as torches and a firelighting pack. We sit in the communal cooking area and they make us sweet tea and a basic dough which is made into doughballs and we share the food from a large bowl using our fingers to eat. We sit round the camp fire getting to know each other. Meantime our other volunteer goes to meet the man that we need to meet as he may have the answers to our questions in relation what we can do to help.
As the sun sets, we laugh and joke and share stories of our culture and families. These men come from the Dinka tribe in the Sudan who are renowned for a form of dance which involves jumping. They promise to show us tomorrow as its Eid-al-Adha.
Despite the lack of alcohol involved and the darkness, we show them our national dances and do a Gay Gordon followed by a highland fling. They laugh loudly when I show them the men wearing skirts dancing a Gay Gordon on You Tube.
As we’re full from the food that we’ve shared and the sweet weak tea thats been made for us over the open fire, we all become silent. By now its completely dark. One of the men suddenly breaks the silence and says that he misses his son. He shows us photos of him. He hasn’t seen him for many years now and believes he is in a camp in Libya. He is very sad. We comfort him the best we can. But no words or comfort substitutes the fact he’s living in a camp which is ripe for disease, in a place which will become very cold over the coming months, far from his family.
I feel so grateful for everything I have. My heart breaks for him, for all of them. How awful is this situation? What makes things worse is that we could empty the Jungle – bring everyone into the UK. They’d pay us back ten-fold. And 4,000 people wouldn’t have any impact on our services throughout the UK – its half the population of Haddington. We have the ability and resources. I never did find the answer to the question ‘why can’t we come to the UK?’
I feel so blessed that I was invited to spend an evening, in the most surreal circumstances, with five men from Sudan who made me laugh with them and, afterwards, cry for them in equal measures. They are an amazing group of men. I will never forget that night and how seven people sat round a camp fire in Northern France and laughed. We were equals that night.
But my luck of birth to be entitled to the ‘right’ passport means that we can’t be equals because having that passport gives me rights as a human. Basic rights that people in the Jungle do not have.
Day 4 - Meetings and Maps
I wake in an odd mood. I think about the previous night and how special it was. We are seeing a structure forming in camp and although things are still chaotic, the volunteer that had arrived the previous night was on it – he was going to make things happen. Again today is torrential rain.
Our amazing ‘leader’ couldn’t sleep so had gone to the camp very early in the morning. She was the only one of us who was insured to drive the van which left two of us at the hotel. We have some Nutella crepes then get a taxi to the Jungle.
For the first time since we’d arrived, the entrance where the police had blocked was open and we were dropped off by the taxi driver there. We walk through the Jungle towards the volunteer area, making sure we stop at the guys who saved us from the tear gas to wave, smile, shake their hands and say thank you once more. As we pass, we shake hands, say hello and are invited to eat with the people we pass and offered to sit with them and have some sweet tea. Unfortunately it would take us the whole day to get through the camp if we stopped so we regretfully decline the invitations.
As we near the volunteer area, we meet two women from South East England who have turned up with a car load to distribute. We ask them to join us. We have a meeting to attend with the main activists in the camp to find out what we can do to support them. The two women, who had arrived in the jungle for the first time, were roped into assisting to sort through some items which had landed in the camp in a huge tent.
We have our meeting at one of the makeshift restaurants in the camp. We have spicy egg with bread and sweet tea. We sit crossed legged on a raised counter with a table cloth spread out in front of us. The rain is torrential outside and the restaurant ‘owner’ tells us the sewerage smells and is running down the dirt street outside.
The people in the camp are resourceful - they've had to be. There are makeshift restaurants and shops within the camp. They’re very similar to the type of cafe’s and shops you find in villages in rural Africa. The shops don’t sell much – drinks and basic food with cigarettes wrapped in tinfoil. I’ve no doubt there is some kind of black market as I’ve read so many times but I didn’t see any evidence of this. The people in the camp have all had to show amazing strength to get where they are. No one could experience what they have without having some form of trauma.
We agree quite a bit at the meeting. Things are looking more and more positive. It becomes apparent that the priority is shelter – strong robust shelter that will keep people warm throughout the winter. The difficulty is that because its a temporary camp, nothing can be put into the ground. This means everything has to be freestanding. We manage to arrange a meeting with an NGO who can assist with sanitation. We all feel so much better about the future in the camp.
Its agreed that two of us will go round the camp to make a map and a note of what nationalities exist and where they are located. This will help new and current volunteers navigate the camp. The main nationalities are from the Sudan, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Ethiopia and Kurdish. There are other nationalities in there but these appear to be the main groups.
As we make our way round, we’re invited to share food, for tea, to sit down round the open fires and in general to chat. We shake so many hands and find the stories of so many people. All quite tragic. These are articulate people and would be an asset to any country which agrees to allow them to have a future. Lots of people ask us if David Cameron will let them come to the UK. We respond by putting our thumbs down and say its unlikely – there is no point in giving people false hope.
One man from Syria is on crutches. He’d tried to get on the train going through the channel tunnel. He’d fallen and broken his leg in four places. After weeks in hospital, he was sent back to the Jungle. He spoke fluent English and wanted to come to the UK to find work. He appears to be aware that some of the UK population do not want people from Syria to come into the country. I assure him that some may feel that way but I know many people who would welcome him with open arms.
A man from Sudan speaks to us and asks if we’d heard about 15 year old Idi from Sudan. Idi had attempted to get through the tunnel to the UK last night and has been killed. What stuns me is that its almost like an acceptance that this happens. It reinforces that the risk of death rather than staying in camp is one worth taking. I understand that. I shouldn’t, but I do. Human life is not paramount to people in camp – what is most important is hope and a future. When you feel you have nothing to lose, you risk everything. I return to incredulity that this is really happening in Western Europe in 2015. It defies belief. What an unjust and unfair society we live in. We deny people basic rights.
We meet some women from Eritrea who chat to us. We find a helpful man from Kuwait who offers himself up as our guide and interpreter round the camp. We see the makeshift Church, the Book Store/library, the school and the mosque.
We meet a man we’d seen the previous day from Afghanistan. He had been cheerful but now appeared to be deflated. We ask him what is wrong. He tells us he’d tried and failed to get through the tunnel last night. He’d had hope yesterday. Today he had nothing.
On our way back to the volunteer area, we go to see our Sudanese friends. There is no one around. We continue back to the van and agree we’d had a productive day. We decide to go to a hotel and chill out this evening to give ourselves time to reflect. We also decide we would return home the next day as we are satisfied that we had a plan of action in place.
On our way out of camp, we see one of our friends from Sudan. We stop the van. He comes over and tells us that he is on his way to the tunnel tonight. We beg him not to attempt it. He says he has to try. We all cry as we hug him and shake his hand and wish him safety. What else can we do? We return to the hotel and do everything we can not to worry about our friends. But always, in the background, was the hope that they would be safe no matter what the outcome.
Day 5 - leaving
Today we are leaving. We head to the camp to the volunteer area but first, we go check on our Sudan friends. No one is around but then we see one man we don’t recognise. A few minutes later, one of our friends appears. He tells us all of them had tried to get through the tunnel last night. Another of our friends comes out from his shelter and looks as if he’s been crying. He tells us he tried to jump on a train and fell. One of his hands is badly swollen, the other is cut. We ask him to go see one of the medical teams in camp but he says that it will be fine. Its obvious he is in pain. We are relieved he is ok but concerned because we know he’ll try again. No one should have to go to such lengths to secure a future for themselves. Its wrong.
By now we’re running late so we quickly say goodbye to as many people as possible before we climb back in the van and head out of camp for our ferry. We head back to our ‘safe’ country with our ‘superior’ passports that allow us to travel freely throughout the world. To our double glazed, central heated houses with comfortable beds to be with our family. To a life that has never known a fraction of the hell-on-earth that the people in the Jungle have experienced. Yet they exist in a camp, we live in our homes.
Some information you might want to read...
This is where I apologise. I should explain this myself but linking to websites is so much easier!
First of all, this makes essential reading.
It dispels a lot of myths that some of the British public and media love to complain about.
David Camerons “kind” offer to take in 20,000 refugees from countries surrounding Syria isn’t quite what it seems. First of all, no one in Calais, or any other country in Europe will receive any assistance to settle in the UK. The people he has announced ‘we’ will help are those with health problems that need specialist treatment and women and children. This means your average man fleeing from Syria won’t be entitled to this scheme. Its a tokenistic gesture and won’t allow those fleeing horrific conditions in Sudan, Eritrea or Afghanistan come to the UK. Which will not make much difference to those who make that dangerous journey to reach safety because they will still have no other option.
I should explain a little about the Dublin Regulation. But again. I’ll use a link to explain: http://www.ecre.org/topics/areas-of-work/protection-in-europe/10-dublin-regulation.html
I feel the need to explain the situation in the main home countries of those within the camp. But I have searched the internet for useful links that explain the situations in these countries much better than I ever could. Please do read these as they put things into perspective.
Afghanistan, Iran and Iraqhttp://www.refugeeaction.org.au/?p=3061
There are many more links out there. My advice is ignore anything from the media – its usually untrue and Wikipedia isn’t too factual either. Look at websites like the UNHCR website for statistics and information or some of the agencies who work on the ground, like Mercy Corps. They’re the guys who are reporting what is really going on. The media always has another agenda.