finally I’m back in Berlin and I have the time to answer you! Sorry I didn’t write you for such a long time, but I had very limited internet access in Calais and when I was back in Belgium I was too tired to write you…
My experience in the camp was very intense. There’s over 4000 refugees in ‘the jungle’ (that’s how they call the camp). It’s mosly men, though there’s also some (highly pregnant) women and children. Most of the women are Eritrean, its like the only community where you see that much women. There’s a women and children shelter next to the camp, it’s called the ‘Jules Ferry Center’, it’s from the ngo ‘La Vie Active’. Women and children can stay there for 2 months: they get food, beds, showers, etc., but after those 2 months they’re out…
There’s about 5 other ngo’s active in the camp: 2 local ones that have been there for many years and have a lot of experience: ‘Salaam’ and ‘l’Auberge des Migrants’. The last one has a very big compound with donated stuff for the refugees. Me and some other independent volunteers distributed the stuff with Liz’ army truck into the camp. For the rest there’s also ‘Medicins du Monde’, an ngo that provides medical help, and ‘Secours catholique’, I think they provide the ‘one meal a day’ for the refugees.
There’s also some anarchists of ‘No Border’ on site, but i actually didn’t have the feeling they were doing so much. Mostly i saw them camping, building (their own) stuff or cooking food. Still maybe they had some genious revolutionary plans i didn’t know about (I don’t think so, but let’s hope so)…
The ngo’s are doing a good job, but it’s still not at all sufficient for the camp and the basic needs of the people. There’s too may refugees, too little volunteers and the French government is of course doing shit. In Calais you can really see what the consequences of a racist government and society are… The state puts loads of money in big fences with barbed wire and riot cops with their wapons and dogs to ‘protect’ the Eurotunnel and stop refugees from going to the UK, but they don’t even provide proper shelter, water, food, medical, sanitary and washing facilities for the refugees. It’s horrible. It’s fucking facist!
Most of the refugees are young ‘men’ between 15 and 35 I would say. Most of them come from Sudan, I think they’re around 2000 people. There’s also Eritrean, Ethiopian, Somalian, Iranian, Iraki, Syrian, Kurdisch and Afghani people. The Afghan community forms kind off the centre of the camp. They’ve established a little economy there, with ‘tea bars’, ‘restaurants’ and ‘shops’. They’re very present and visible in the camp, though they’re actually not that much people. An Afghan refugee friend told they’re about 300. The refugees are a mix of moslims and christians, there’s a big church (tent) in the middle of the camp and there’s different smaller mosques (tents).
The most shocking for me to see, was that there’s quite a lot of children around 10-12 years old in the camp that are ‘travelling’ alone. Of course the community kinda takes care of them, but still they’re there without any relatives or friends. The same Afghan refugee friend, who is now 22, told me that he – as a 15-year old boy – was send away by his family cause the taliban had put a bomb in his parents house and they all died. He survived cause he was sleeping at his uncles place, but because the taliban were after him too, his family decided to sent him to Europe to be safe. People are sending their kids away cause it’s more safe then keeping them home…
The conditions in the camp are really bad. People live in tents that were donated by people (not the government!) which is oke in summer, but now winter is coming and everything starts leaking and getting flooded. People get sick, diseases spread amongst the communities: there’s lice now, scabies, a lot of colds and fevers, diarrhea… There’s also a lot of tooth problems (and no dentist in the camp!) and a lot of open wounds and broken limbs because people get wounded as they try to cross the border and/or get beaten up by ‘our friends’ the police.
The riot cops are very very brutal. Yesterday my friend told me he was beaten up AGAIN (and again and again) by the French police just because he’s a refugee trying to get to the UK. I’m pretty sure those bastards think its fun to beat up refugees, who is going to care about them anyways? I heard loads, but really loads of horrific stories about police violence in every single fucking country the refugees went through. People just wont believe what those kids – cause most of the refugees really are just kids when they start their odyssey to Germany, the UK or wherever – have gone through…
I could tell you so much more about the camp. I could also tell you about the wonderfull people I met, about the friends I made, about the things I learned and about how difficult it was to leave everybody behind. I will go back though. The fight is not over. We’re obliged to help these people. It’s fucking 2 hours away from the Belgian border! We will not just sit and watch how people die trying to cross the fucking border….
To end this letter I wanna share this poem with you. It’s from a 22-years old Sudanese refugee in the camp. He read it to me in the caravan i was living in. Its about his life in the camp and about his friend that died when they tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea. His name is Mohammed Omer:
like the cloudless sky
on a sunfilled day
like the sleeping child
in a rocking cradle
like the sounds of grief
through her gritted teeth
like the skeleton carried
in my darkest deepest sleep
like the birth of my child
with a new mother tongue
like carrying a heaviness
over endless trails of fatigue
like arriving in my home
where my tears are my own