I’ve been feeling all emotional hearing about the riots and violence happening in the Calais jungle over the last few days.
It hasn’t been reported on much, but what I do read takes this kinda approach:
“27 police officers hurt in two nights of unrest at Calais refugee camp”
“Clashes between youths armed with sticks and rocks broke our after a dispute over an alleged theft, police said”
“The illegal migrants have become increasingly violent according to local police”
“It’s like a war”
It’s easy to read these and pass a sweeping judgement, to instantly make your mind up, forming prejudices and opinions…but I feel like theres so much these headlines don’t answer…
“How many vulnerable refugees were hurt during two nights of unrest at Calais refugee camp?”
“Clashes between youths armed with sticks and rocks against who? Police armed with tear gas, rubber bullets, a water cannon and lethal concussion grenades?”
“Increasingly violent? How about increasingly desperate? And what about the increasing violence and intimidation shown by police?”
“Yes it is like a war! The last time we saw mass migration of desperate persecuted people on this scale was WWII, which we look back on, vowing that we would never allow that to happen again.”
I wanna scream that there are two sides to every story. To not believe everything you read as the whole picture.
I haven’t personally been in Calais the last few days, but the people I meet there are not the violent ‘problem’ they are made out to be in the news. They are the victims of a much larger problem. They are physically weak, receiving one meal a day (after queuing for hours and sometimes there still isn’t enough) between 5pm and 7pm. Many of them have gone long periods of their journey without eating…a young boy I know told me he didn’t eat for 15 days, crossing the Sahara in Libya, but he didn’t feel hunger, just desperate thirst. Many are injured or suffering from various infections rife in the unsanitary conditions of the camp. They are also living outside, in the freezing cold, without satisfactory clothing, shoes or shelter. Many have suffered severe trauma, seen things we could never imagine, experienced things no one ever should. People are thin, exhausted, losing hope.
And in come the police in their riot gear. Helmets, batons, full body armour looking like Terminator……. They’ve probably started their shift having eaten a full meal, in their comfortable warm home, and will go home afterwards to do the same. They are fully protected, by each other, by the state, by their outfits, by the security of their lives, their futures. Even their boots are protected by plastic covers so they don’t get muddy.
So yeh, take a step back when you read those headlines and consider how else you could tell this story, how different the narrative could be…