Urgent News from the Jungle
I want to tell you guys about our Sudanese friends.
Syria is in the news a lot at the moment, but Sudanese is in fact the nationality most highly represented in the Jungle refugee camp in Calais. The Sudanese people we have met are from Dafour. A region where the Arab government are persecuting African, tribal people en mass. It is genocide. Modern day genocide. Many of our Sudanese friends tell us stories of true horror. One told me about his baby twin brother and sister who were burnt alive in their family home when it was set on fire by government militia. In the same attack on his entire village, he was chased by a man on horseback with a machete. He has big scars across his face to prove it.
The Sudanese area of the camp is where we always stay. Ultimately hospitable, gentle and kind, we have made many friends here who insist on us sleeping in their shelters, often sharing ‘beds’ to give us theirs. Obviously we try to refuse, but cause more offence in trying to do so, and eventually compromise so everyone is as comfortable as possible.
Anyway yesterday I walked into the small community I have come to know very well over the months. Greeted by the usual smiles and hugs, I embraced the guys whilst swallowing a lump in my throat. They looked bad. On hearing my voice, (it’s bloody loud), the friend I talked about above crawled out of his little shelter, bleary eyed. As he stood up I was shocked, he looked emaciated.
I hugged his bony frame. This beautiful man was tall and well-built when we first met back in August. Strong and handsome despite the scars. He was funny too, referring to Dafour as DaWar, bringing light and positivity, a bit of ironic humour to his situation. We had banter, played cards, he’s only 24.
Anyway yesterday I embraced a different man. His eyes watery from the tear gas, his skin grey, his limbs painfully skinny, he looked ill, very very ill, an air of total despondence all around him.
I soon began to understand why. This area of the camp runs alongside Chemin Des Dune, the road many people used to distribute aid into the camp from. Recently the police have closed this road to volunteers and vehicles carrying aid entirely. A constant police presence (at least 3 riot vans), blocks the entrance, I guess, in an attempt to control who and what goes in and out of the camp. This has had a huge effect on the Sudanese area of the camp who had come to rely on these donations and are seriously suffering as a result.
Many times I have woken up in this part of the camp and gone to brush my teeth to find queues of people waiting out the back of a van along Chemin Des Dunes. I would return to find my friends sharing stale croissants and yesterdays pastries, or offering me grapes from a pallet of fruit and veg. This area of the camp is now pretty unreachable by car and therefore all this has stopped.
Not only this, any food the guys had managed to stockpile was burnt in last months devastating fire in this area on the same night as the Paris attacks, along with their few possessions and entire shelters. The closest water point is also pretty far away and their health is seriously suffering as a result.
Unfortunately we’ve seen, not just in Calais, that many volunteers arriving to the camp naturally follow the same patterns and distribute to the same places, creating a big divide between areas of the camp. Kitchens established by volunteer groups are truly amazing but also naturally become used by certain areas / residents of the camp and not others, for various cultural / internal reasons that I don’t truly understand.
But anyway, our Sudanese friends are truly malnourished and it is clear to see. And it’s affecting them deeply. I asked the same friend if he was still going to school every day, as he had been very passionate about learning French, (he is seeking asylum in France), but he told me he no longer had the energy.
They need some good food, some warmth, some love and some hope. I’m not into begging but please please please donate to them whatever you are able to, by clicking below.
The friend mentioned is not in this picture.