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Asylum Seekers in Calais

St. Peter's Charitable Giving Association

Asylum Seekers in Calais

Posted by: nickclarke on Tuesday January 13, 2015   (2655 Reads)
Half the aid supplies packed in the cars!
Half the aid supplies packed in the cars!
CGA - Responding to the crisis of the Asylum Seekers in Calais
Monday 22nd December 2014
Nick Clarke, Tris Congreve, Cheryl Jones, Kenzie Jones and Henny Davies met at St. Peter's Church Centre, Chantilly to collect up donations of blankets, sleeping bags, coats, men shoes, tents etc which had been amassing over the last two weeks. We filled two cars to the ceilings and left soon after 8am.
We arrived at the village of Wierre-Effroy and met with Christian Salomé, le chef de L’Auberge de migrants
(http://www.laubergedesmigrants.fr/). We were then guided to a disused farm building which they use as a store and have an adjoining hut where they prepare food on Thursdays and Fridays to distribute to the migrants.
We were joined by Catherine and François who go into ‘the jungle’ every day. They use a ticket system to distribute goods, as to take anything in quantity into the camps just means that they are mobbed and the stronger men get all the ‘goodies’ while the weaker ones get nothing. They talk to people, discuss their immediate need ie shoes, blankets, plastic sheets and then return the same or the following day.
This organisation is in daily contact with 2-3 thousand people. Mostly Eritreans, Sudanese & Ethiopians and mostly young men – there are a few children and about 200 women. (These women are completely unprotected! )


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We shared a coffee and discussed the problems that they are facing and the political situation. Poverty….clothing, living accommodation, sanitation, medical care are all virtually non-existent. There are no showers, cloths are worn for several weeks then burnt because they are disgusting.
The immigrants arrive in Europe and the first country that they come to, often Italy or Greece, finger prints them…. This is where they have to apply for political asylum papers. There is no work and their goal is UK so they travel illegally through Europe and arrive in Calais…..French paperwork is very slow!! Plus they are not in the country where their fingerprints were taken……………
We unloaded the cars and were then joined by Tiffany Cawood, along with Sophie, Alice, William and a friend who had driven up separately.
We left the hangar and drove into Calais, almost onto the ferry! We took the last slip road before the ferry port and drove back under the road into an industrial area next to the oil refining plant which you see as you go into the ferry port. We followed our guides, Catherine and François, along this road for 2 Km until they pulled over alongside a chain-link fence and a disused industrial building. They got out of their van with two large bin bags of bread (left over or unsold bread from the local supermarkets and boulangerie which is donated daily) There were a few men hanging around but as soon as the cars stopped then people appeared from nowhere. Pouring out from a gap in the fence, running across the road and surrounded the couple…. Bread was handed out rapidly but without violence despite what it looked like from a distance. There were smiles and friendly shoving but no more than that. Bread having been distributed the crowd melted away as quickly as it had appeared and we were lead through the broken wire fence into the camp. First impression was plastic shelters like large molehills, rubbish everywhere and mud. Mud about 1cm deep ran in black paths between the shelters. Coloured plastic, mostly blue and black stretched over branches with a wooden pallet to keep everything off the ground. A few had mattresses but mostly there were blankets, duvets, sleeping bags laid onto the pallet. Some people were huddles around wood fires while others had crude cooking pots perched over the fire on homemade tripods. We wove through a few trees and more shelters into a more open area behind the building. An opening had been broken open and the building was packed with row upon row of more plastic shelters. These were the better places as being inside the building gave a little more protection from the cold, wind and rain. People were now coming up to us and quietly shaking our hands and saying hello. Most of the young black men we met were Eritreans, Muslim and in their twenties. Some had been in the camp for days, some weeks, some months and one man, Abrahim had been there for 3 years. He has started a restaurant where others can come and eat for €3.50 but they mostly have no money so are fed in an open area in Calais daily by one or other of the 5 organisations like L’Auberge des Migrants and Secours Catholique.
Behind these shelters was an open area with a football pitch, with broken goal posts, that was completely surrounded on all sides with more shelters and more piles of rubbish.
There is a sense of community in this camp – they have constructed a church ( orthodox ) and a school for adults to learn English and French. A few old school tables and chairs lined up but no blackboard, books, pens.. Another young man called Ibrahim told us proudly ( and rightly so) that he had built the school and invited us to go inside. All the people I spoke to, spoke English well. They smiled and spoke softly about themselves, their journey and their hopes of getting to England.
Standing watching these young, desperate people play football with a new football which we had put into our collection, smiling and laughing, surrounded by desperate poverty was slightly unreal.
The camp gave the impression of been very ordered. There was no smell other than cooking fires though we knew that there are no facilities. The Secours Catholique have a mobile shower unit that has enough water for about 30 people which tours the camps but our guides estimate that they average about one shower every three months per person.
I saw no stand pipe for water although Tris said he did see a water butt outside the camp.
There was continual noise from the factory that overshadowed the camp. While walking through the camp I noticed other Europeans who were there ………..Two ladies who appeared to be giving support but I did not speak with them. There was a young man, Albano Franzoso, who was taking photographs and said that he was working on a project to show the plight of the immigrants. He gave us his card ‘ Humans of Dunkerque’. We left after about an hour ……
I was pleased to have received this short email two days later from François
Je vous souhaite, au nom de l'Auberge des Migrants, de belles fêtes de fin d'année.
Merci pour votre visite. Les tentes ont déjà été distribuées, ainsi que la plus grande partie des couvertures.
A bientôt. Pour l'Auberge, François
H Davies 24/12/2014
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