Wednesday, 25 November 2015

And What A Jungle It is! - by Savannah Simons: November 25th 2015

I’ve just returned from 4 days in Calais at the Refugee camp dubbed “The Jungle”. And a jungle it is. 

Destroyed tents, soaked clothes and shit-stained everything. Standing, dripping, in a queue for over 2 hours in the torrential rain and gale force winds for a jumper, only to return to a flooded tent, with nowhere to dry anything, wet, freezing to death, was the everyday reality. 

The evenings consisted of another run and jump attempt onto the back of a train, fall off or get caught, pepper sprayed and beaten by the police before being locked up for up to 20 days in order to be “taught a lesson”. Some told me it was worth it. Others didn't. A Syrian Social Anthropologist who had been in the camp for 4 months said to me "at least here, I have a chance of survival". Return home and be killed was his alternative.
In the Jungle I was greeted with smiles and warmth. “How are you?” I was asked, “where are you from?", "would you like some tea?", people offering to share what little they had. The spirit of these individuals, in such disgusting circumstances was unbelievable.
During distribution I found myself apologising to everyone for the weather. For the UK and French government. For our inaction. For the fact that we sit at home and go "that's awful!" and then do nothing. "How the hell is this happening", "this makes no sense", "I don't understand", I found myself repeating over and over again. How have we come this far in civilization, how are we this technologically advanced, for people to still be denied food, water and shelter. The fact that this is happening right in front of us, not in some far away land we are told is "inaccessible"/ "not our problem" and still do nothing, when we are all able to, is inexcusable.
We are lucky enough to be born in a peaceful and prosperous country. Not everyone has such luck.
Your political orientation is irrelevant. Your views on border control and immigration policy are irrelevant. Nobody should be living like this Anywhere, and most certainly not in a country as wealthy and as capable as France. Anyone and everyone can do something.
Calaid, the organisation we volunteered with is doing everything it can and is volunteer-run. We spent days sorting clothes, shoes and supplies in the Warehouse, and building and distributing in the Jungle. The piles and piles of unsorted clothes and shoes; and undistributed food and supplies is frustrating: their are simply not enough volunteers or vans. The governments/ the UN are doing NOTHING whatsoever, so it really is down to us. Even volunteering for 1 day can make a huge difference. Its not for someone else to do, its for all of us to do.

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