Sunday, 9 August 2015

Can't Wait to Get Back To Calais - by Martin Nolan via FB: August 9th 2015

Here is my take on the current situation which, I hope, will clarify things for a few people.

The 'Jules Ferry' centre which keeps being referred to, along with the 100 bed unit for women and kids, was not what I thought it would be. It appears that the women and kids in the unit are being looked after OK and that it receives some kind of funding from somewhere.

Elsewhere on the site are small units used for storage by the various agencies that are on the ground - one of which is the 'Association Salam'. Whilst only a very small team of volunteers, they are on the ground daily and are well placed to ascertain need and meet that need on a priority basis.

For example, if you walked into the jungle and shouted "Who wants a 4 man tent?" then, of course, 4,000 hands would go up. Some because they need a tent, some because your one looks better than theirs and some because they could trade or sell it for food. - Trust me on this guys - 'Assoc. Salam' really are the people to distribute items fairly.

With regard to the food situation: There is a big kitchen on the site of the 'Jules Ferry' centre which prepares a very crude meal once per day. They are only physically capable of serving up to 2,000 meals.

This means that 1 in 2 migrants don't get to eat anything at all.

I witnessed people waking up in the morning, fetching some water and joining the queue for the evening meal at 11am. The meal is not served until around 6pm and there is no shelter for those queuing.

There are many migrants who are frail, sick and injured - including many on crutches. They have no chance of walking on crutches to fetch a meal and, sometimes, due to the size of the camp, their shelter could be up to 1 mile from where the meal is served. Migrants are not allowed to collect a meal for anyone else - and so the person on crutches or who is sick gets no food, making the problems worse.

Water: There is a single water pipe feed from the 'Jules ferry' centre connected to 3 taps outside the gates. Again, this is up to 1 mile from the furthest shelters. Collecting and carrying water is extremely tough. Remember that 1 litre of water weighs 1kg!

Water containers are very much needed.

Food: I took as much tinned food as my van could carry whilst still being within the legal weight limit of 3.5 tonnes. The way this is distributed is normally directly from the back of a vehicle. (Editor's note ... recent advice is that people should seek support from experienced personnel on the ground when distributing aid directly from their vehicles)

The migrants seemed to know the drill and very calmly formed an orderly queue in the hope of receiving some small gesture of kindness. I took a mix of tinned foods that included: sardines, mackerel, tuna, minced beef, corned beef, spag bol, mac cheese, chilli, spaghetti in tomato sauce, baked beans, rice pudding, pineapple chunks and peach slices. I also took a shed load of tomato puree tubes.

Remember that these tins need to be opened somehow! Some tins come with a ring-pull, but most don't! I took a huge box of tin openers and distributed these as well, along with additonal soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste and razors.

We also made up and took with us 300 wash bags. Some of these we left with 'Assoc Salam' for distribution, but most of them we distributed directly around the jungle.

It was tough. Despite taking as much food as I possibly could, at some point I had to tell those who were still patiently in the queue that there was no more food and that it was all finished. That was one of the hardest things of the day for me - knowing that those being turned away may not have got a meal last night from 'Jules Ferry' either.

I heard no complaints though and, although their disappointment was visible, they still thanked us as they left, hoping that someone else will come tomorrow and that they will have better luck then.

'Assoc Salam' do a food distribution daily, around lunchtime, of items they have had donated. If you are only able to load a small amount of food into your vehicle with the other stuff you are taking then joining your food with theirs will be the best way to do it. Imagine having 150 tins of food and then before you can open your boot you have a queue of 500 to 1000 people silently form a line behind your vehicle.

Life is harsh for all of them. Some have just arrived and some have been there a long, long time. You can pretty much tell this by the way they are living and what they have by way of shelter, etc.

On a lighter note, Mrs Goodguy and I were made extremely welcome by everyone wherever we went in the jungle. Personally, I can't wait to get back over there. I already have ideas on what I would do differently.

There is lots more to tell - I am just struggling to tell it. It was a very emotional day and the mood in my van on the return journey was sombre to say the least.

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