On Saturday 19 September, members of the London2Calais group joined with others from the UK at the request of French agencies such as “L’Auberge des Migrants” and the Secours Catholic Church to take part in a demonstration of solidarity with the refugees at the camp in Calais, known as “The Jungle”.
Here are two stories that Mitch Mitchell and Bettina Trabant brought back with them. Photos by Bettina Trabant.
By Mitch Mitchell.
As we walked the 4.8 miles from the camp to the town of Calais we were watched by surly looking French police and one or two rather incredulous passers-by.
The refugees in this camp are largely male and many come from Syria although many others also come from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and many different parts of Africa. One such was Asad, who approached myself and Laila from our group.
Asad was wreathed in smiles and shook both of our hands. He then proceeded to tell us how he had reached France. Apparently, he had tried to escape his country on a few occasions. One time he tried to cross the Iran/Turkey border.
He was with a group of refugees. They came under fire from border guards and thirteen people lay dead. Asad managed to escape.
He then tried the extremely perilous sea crossing to Greece. This attempt ended in disaster as the boat capsized and another seven of his companions drowned.
Asad managed to grab onto a life belt, along with two others who also had hold of it and got ashore. After many trials and tribulations, he made it to the camp in Calais.
His English was perfect and he said he hoped to one day be allowed into the UK where he “knows people”. Surely, a person of his tenacity and courage would be an asset to our society?
He shook our hands again and disappeared into the crowd of other refugees. Laila and I were left to continue the march and discuss Asad and the other people we met on the day.
As they used to say in an old TV cop show “There are 8 million stories in the Naked City. This – has been one of them.”
Back in a warm bed
By Bettina Trabant.
I am sitting on my nice warm bed drinking a hot cup of tea and relaxing from a tiring, but interesting day in the Jungle camp in Calais. I feel blessed having a lovely flat in Hackney and a nice comfortable bed and proper sanitation.
I came to the UK 21 years ago and it took me 1 hour and 45 minutes, perhaps 4 hours if you count the drive to and from the airport and the wait in the departure lounge. I stayed in a hotel for the first night and I remember my dad complaining about the breakfast.
Those poor people from all over the world have fled war-torn and poverty-stricken countries and have been on the road for weeks and months, most have not even arrived in the UK yet. They stay in Calais where they are treated not to a hotel room, shitty breakfast or not, but to a tent on a muddy pitch or some home built wooden (not sure “hut” is quite the right word) without decent sanitation and chopped bits of wood for heating. If they are lucky to ever make it to the UK they probably won’t have a nice flat or a decent job.
Why do people have to live like this in the 21st century? Some of what I saw and heard today was truly harrowing. But then I was inspired by the solidarity of both British and French people who came on the demo today and who have donated so generously over the past few weeks.
Let’s keep up the fight for a better world and for decent treatment of migrants. We have to say loud and clear to the British government and to other European governments: NO ONE IS ILLEGAL, LET THEM IN!
The London2Calais convoy was supported by rs21, BARAC, Movement for Justice, London Palestine Action, Defend the Right to Protest and HaLOL.