L’Auberge des Migrants, the local charity headed by Francois and Maya, have been supporting the refugees and migrants in Calais for well over a decade. Only recently have they seen such a surge in numbers of people seeking refuge. January 2015, approximately 1,500 people. By my first trip in August there were 3,500. When I returned a month later, with between 10-100 new residents arriving each day, the estimate is 5,000 refugees. Still occupying the same area. Two weeks ago the French police, headed by the local mayor, forcefully restricted the inevitable expansion into the scrubland with CS gas, riot lines and bulldozing tents in two Syrian camps with little to no warning.
(Video available https://www.facebook.com/JoinCalAid/videos/529473663869451/)
There is a very real threat of attacks. An Eritrean man was hospitalised while I was in Calais, beaten unconscious and robbed of all his possessions.
There are men here from all over the world. Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Sudan, Egypt etc. Some women and children, mostly in the Day Centre next to the camp, but 90% of the residents are young men, almost all of them limping and scarred from their various attempts to leave the Jungle and find a better life.
Beside the torn, shabby tents held down with stones and the rising groundwater, there are also amenities and businesses. Homes, shops, restaurants, even a library. But this is the height of their opportunity within Europe. There is no home to return to. Until their application for asylum is accepted, or they survive a mission to the UK to claim sanctuary.
This is it.
On an entirely different scale is the limitless attention given to the holy buildings. The Church and the Mosques are built before homes. They are beautiful and immaculate, centres of essential community.
L’Auberge have very clear procedures that ensure FAIR distribution, carefully prepared so there is no WASTE and organised to preserve the dignity and wellbeing of everyone involved.
‘Self Distributions’ from well meaning people coming over with donations are a double edged sword. Firstly, it’s more food, clothing and people right into the camp. Secondly, its mayhem. The people who need the donations don’t get them, the lack of organisation leaves so much waste as people grab things they don’t need, and food is wasted and spoiled.
There is no waste disposal apart from two skips and a team of UK volunteers.
The only advice I could give you is that the situation is constantly changing. Minute to minute. Nothing is ever one thing, and your experience is just that. Everybody is frazzled, worn out physically and mentally.
Donations coming into the new warehouse by the truck load have to be sorted by volunteers for effective distribution. Clothes that are not usable go, either to be sorted in Belgium by a homeless charity until the warehouse can house more than the absolute essentials, or back to the UK to be weighed in for cash. Cambridge Cash4Clothes is one of the higher paying centres, offering £0.50/kilo.
The big push now is for building materials. Winter is coming.
Sid and Laura (http://tag-on-line.blogspot.fr/) have refined a template house with minimal materials. With Bash, the appointed foreman, a Turkish man who lived in the UK for 15 years with his wife and child before losing his passport when visiting his mother in Turkey. Bash was refused re-entry to the UK. He has given up the possibility of returning and has set his future on helping the men in the Jungle.
People to man the warehouse, for a day or longer is better, really makes a difference.
Just turn up at 9am and be willing to get stuck in wherever you are needed!