THE CALAIS JUNGLE: SO WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
Everyone keeps asking me the same thing..so where is everyone going?
Well…that’s a bloody great question…
This past week I’ve talked to as many people as possible about their post-Jungle plans, and the main, consistent theme, is ultimate confusion.
People don’t know what to do.
All week, as people were expected to queue for hours, to ‘register’ and get on buses…the lack of information and understanding was so evident. So many people told me that they were scared because they didn’t know what registering would mean….they didn’t know where the buses were going, and they didn’t know what would happen to them at the other end.
Many are worried about being deported. People say that France is a safe country, but if France is more likely to deport you back to your own country, where you could face imminent death…what’s safe about that?
That’s the reality for so many of the people I spoke to…they believe their asylum claim will be more likely to be successful in the UK. No…not because we’re a ‘soft touch’ but because we get far fewer applications (we’re an island…it’s a bit trickier to get here…with no legal way of doing so apart from hiding in the back of a truck / underneath the Eurotunnel train).
Another reason that a lot of people were hesitant to get on buses, were that it meant giving up the dream of going to England.
The 10,000 people in Calais are just a drop in the ocean, when millions of people are fleeing war-torn Syria, the genocide in Sudan and the oppressive state of Eritrea (etc).
This particular 10,000 are those who have a reason to go to the UK.
Often it’s family…
If you had left your home, and everything you owned, the most important thing to you would be being together with your family right?
So many of the Jungle residents want to go to the UK to be reunited with family members, and my understanding of the current law is that unless you are underage, there is no legal way to do so. You can’t apply… you have to take matters into your own hands…and try everything you can.
That’s why people risk their lives to do so.
That’s why they live in tents, in the mud, in the freezing cold for months on end.
For love. For hope. For a future.
Those choosing to stay in Calais still hold on to that dream. Refusing to give up, they will now continue to try, without the support and infrastructure so many people worked so hard to create in the Jungle. Food distributions, tents, shelters, a legal centre, little clinics… all gone. In the Jungle, if you needed some warm clothes, a cup of tea or just some company, there was always somewhere you could find it…
Bulldozing these resources does not solve the problem, in fact just dispersing people, forcing many into worse conditions.
So lets talk about those who did get let go of that dream, and get on the buses.
5,000 people to be exact…5,000 dreams…
What i’ve heard about the centres they have been taken to varies hugely. Some people are happy, with their own rooms and a warm shower…others find themselves in big empty buildings filled with rows of camp beds.
What happens to them next…I’m not sure….
Finally lets talk about the kids…
1,500 unaccompanied kids still live in the Calais camp, but they are now housed in the shipping containers, where they have not been provided with any food or water since the move. Thankfully (as always), amazing individuals and volunteers have stepped in to make sure they are fed… filling the void left by the authorities (again).
They too are expected to be transferred to reception centres around France pretty soon, which is scary as there is HUGE concerns about these kids going missing, with no one taking responsibility for them (the government hasn’t managed to do such a great job of doing so, so far).
We have heard reports of one of the buses headed to the accommodation centres stopped for petrol last week, and every single person on the bus took the opportunity to jump off and run away, to fend for themselves as winter descends…too terrified about what the centre had in store for them.
So yeh…that’s our personal experience of what we’ve been hearing on the ground in the camp this last week as people pack their bags and leave. I hope it sheds some light on the question….
BUT WHERE IS EVERYBODY GOING!? WHAT WILL EVERYONE DO NOW!?
…because it’s a bloody great question.
If only we had a better answer.