Visiting the “new jungle” in Calais

Filed in Relationships by on December 6, 2015 4 Comments

tent

A DAY TRIP TO CALAIS

A main street. The only one. Around a jungle of tents and rubbish.

Mud, restaurants, shops. I am in the afghan area together with four others for a day trip from Southern England to the ‘new jungle’ in Calais. The new jungle is a refugee camp where about 5000 people, mostly young men, after a long journey, already close to their target, England, stop in front of a wall.

I go into a slum of six young people. Marta, a nineteen year old girl is cooking for the bunch. “I left Eritrea one year ago. I went through my country, Sudan and Egypt mostly on foot. Then, through North Africa by auto stop. I paid for a “jump” by boat to Italy, then crossed Europe by train up until the English Channel”.

End of the dream. The wall. Police. Fence. More people arriving daily. A few smuggling themselves in a lorry hidden by the night’s darkness. Marta has some questions. Where can I sleep? Who has a tent? It is getting cold. I need clothes and walking boots. Many organisations, caritas, doctors, deliverers of food, cleaners of very few toilets.

She is stirring some ingredients in a casserole. “Marta, why do you want to get to England? This is not going to be an easy thing to do…” “Well, relatives are waiting for me in London; in addition English is easier than German”. “You are cooking well. Would you like to cook something for us and we give you some money?” Once again smiling: “Just stay with us, but not for money, you can be our guest”.

Touché! I pretend to be generous. She opens her slum to me.

Sometimes its brass monkeys over there. If you want to just help them, have a look on http://www.calaidipedia.co.uk/site/calaisaid/donations. You can send stuff that is needed directly to them.

If you want to break the wall, take the boxes yourself. Three hours from London. Stay with them, chat with them, be one among them for some hours. It will be one of the best used days of your life. You will see the disarmed beauty. The way chosen by a man 2000 years ago to make happen what most don’t dare to hope. You will break a wall. Within yourself.

[A guest post by Fr José Clavería, November 2015]

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  1. Richard says:

    The people you describe are economic migrants. Fair enough, but to compare them to the Holy Family is plain nonsense.

    • José Clavería says:

      Of course, no one comparison is perfect because any situation is unique. But: As far as I know the Holy Family had problems with a delivery during a trip because no ne wanted to open the own home to them. And they had to scape to another country to survive. Those things are not secondary.

    • Martin says:

      I’m not sure how you make the assumption, from reading this piece, that someone from Eritrea, a country with one of the most brutally repressive regimes in the world, is simply an economic migrant. Because she wishes to come to the UK, rather than France or Germany, for example? The reasons she gives for her choice would seem pretty persuasive to me, if I were in her position. Or is it because she didn’t just stop in Sudan or Egypt, having escaped from Eritrea in the first place? Perhaps she didn’t stop because she didn’t feel safe there? Perhaps she could not imagine a future for herself there? It’s worth bearing in mind that countries whose neighbours are at war or who produce refugees for other reasons often take a much, much higher proportion of refugees than do wealthy European ones (see Lebanon, or Jordan, for example). It is also true, of course, that they are often very ill-equipped to deal with them, and it is surely understandable that many refugees seek sanctuary, not in the nearest “safe” place, but further afield. It is important that some fairer system of distributing refugees around Europe be implemented, though sadly we’re a long way from achieving that. In the meantime, while I accept that a proportion of those entering Europe are “merely” economic migrants, I think many more are fleeing for a combination of reasons, including ones which are definitely covered by the Refugee Convention.

      • Tommy says:

        Martin, your point is valid but this man has actually gone to the camp and has been transformed by his experience. I feel if we all had the courage to go and visit them and share in their experiences instead of watching them from afar from our warm, safe homes with our nice food, warm clothes and access to sanitation (none of which they have) we would all be filled with the love that has filled Father Jose as opposed to doing nothing but mocking and criticising them which is what you have resorted to. Follow Father Jose’s proposal and I’m sure you will be struck as he and many others have.

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