Saturday, 12 March 2016

Another Shocking Day In Calais

Escorting the social workers into the camp for their appointment with the "unofficial women's and children's centre" (or what remained of it) a group of 5 of us walked into the "jungle" unaware of the devastation we were about to witness.  What has always seemed like a derogatory term suddenly felt so fitting after spending the morning in the new MSF camps. The Calais camp had truly become a jungle. An area of the camp that had become so familiar over the last few months felt Barron! Completely demolished, with not a building standing. The land, covered in people's belongings, and broken down or burnt houses, was filled with emotion.  It wasn't heard to feel the heartbreak of the people that had been forced to leave their temporary homes in such a rush that they were forced to abandon their belongings, belongings that they had previously scrambled over each other to get. The place was an absolute Wasteland!  After bumping into Sahar (the young man we had previously built a shelter for), we headed over to the sight that he called home for just over a month. The walk over was an emotional one. Sahar and his family of friends had dismantled their shelter earlier that day in an attempt to move it to the north side of the camp before being destroyed. But with the camp was closed to all vehicles with a barricade of police officers. So with no assistance of a vehicle, and no helping hands there was little hope of them getting it done by nightfall. 

Just 2 weeks ago this site housed many families, a makeshift play park and the "Unofficial Women's and Children Centre"
This sight was where we had previously built a temporary home for Sahar and his family of friends.
While sitting with Sahar and two of his friends contemplating how we could help them with so little time and resources, the camp suddenly succumbed to a huge cloud of smoke. Sahar and his friends frantically started heading towards it, worried that what was burning down was the last mosque within the previously thriving afghan community. To everyone's disappointment it was. The last place that these people had to pray. Sahar said "it's not just sad for the Muslims, but for everybody in the jungle". The crowd didn't fight the growing barricade of police officers whom seemed to be protecting the refugees from a perhaps dangerous situation, they just stood silently in despair, watching the flames spread from one shelter to the next. It was a heart wrenching scene. 

The fire was close to the bridge and with a barricade of police surrounding it, we were trapped in the camp with nothing to do but watch the flames grow, feeling absolutely helpless. On top of that awful helpless feeling we knew that shortly, as the flames dimmed, we'd have to leave. Leave Sahar and his friends with nowhere to sleep, in the freezing cold. Leave all these people living in the worst of  conditions, fighting to keep warm, sheltered and fed, while we travel back to our warm homes with warm running water and cooked food. Battling the smokey conditions that have left us all with a tickle cough, and feeling completely useless we managed to find a way out of the camp and homeward bound. Back to the warehouse and then back to England we travelled in utter silence, contemplating the scene of which we just left.

The New MSF Camps in Dunkirk.

Today's trip to Calais was a head turner. First we headed to l'auberge warehouse to unloading a few vans worth of donations. Following this a group of us went to the new MFS camp in Dunkirk to build one of Dan Shillabeers amazing shelters and to drop off a van containing some 600 blankets to the cold and weary. It was amazing to see this new civilised and spacious camp housing almost all of the refugees previously living under vile conditions in other Dunkirk camps. It was amazing to see nice clean bathroom facilities, warm huts with appropriate ventilation and even door numbers. All located in a tidy and safe space where the children could run around free and oblivious to the suffering surrounding them. These camps are a great blessing for the some 2500 refugees that it holds, and while they still lack the basic essentials that we so readily take for granted, such as heating, electricity, cooking facilities etc, their health is no longer at risk from their surround elements.

The New MSF Camp In Dunkirk
Children Playing at The New MSF Camp
There Is Always Some Scottish Love to Be Shared.