Empathy Action Trustee, Paul Williams, visited the Calais refugee camp know as ‘the Jungle’ and was shocked at the conditions he found there.
A Stark Contrast
I sat with 12 others in a minibus emerging off ‘Le Shuttle’ into the bright sunlight of a late January day in France. As we drove through the streets of Calais one of my fellow travellers remarked how refreshing and exciting it is to experience a different culture. The contrasting cultures of Britain and France have always fascinated me. But these subtle, and some not so subtle, differences that we sometimes find enriching, sometimes mystifying are as nothing compared with the contrast we experienced as we moved from western European urban society to the encampment of refugees on the edge of town known as the Jungle.
Slum On Our Doorstep
It is a slum, but not a slum we would find elsewhere in Europe – this would rival those found in many parts of the developing world. There is basic communal water and sanitation provided, but many refugees have no one else to rely on to provide shelter from the elements. How desperate they must be to leave their home for this! Desperate – yet hopeful of a better life. Hope that drives the young men we saw with bandaged hands – concealing the wounds inflicted by trying to scale the razor wire onto the trucks, trains and ferries to the UK – to try again night after night. Others who had no hope of scaling these defences were resigning themselves to living in the Jungle for the forseeable future, preferring this option to sacrificing their freedom to live in the containers being provided by the French government.
As we reach the middle of March, growing protest from anti-refugee groups and the destruction of parts of the camp by the authorities mean that options for residents of the Jungle appear to be running out.
Paul travelled with a team from Care 4 Calais. Various other groups are welcoming support from volunteers and a quick search on the internet will provide opportunities for those wanting to help.