My experience in a French refugee camp 30



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There are only 60 WCs for over 6,000 people with more immigrants and refugees arriving daily. They pass through my village 57km south of Calais, making their way on foot to the port, smuggled by traffickers across most of France then dropped off at the motorway lay-by 2 kms away from where I live.

A few days before my visit to the camp – termed the ‘jungle’ – on Saturday 7th November, the charities, Medecins du Monde (world medicine) and Secours Catholique (Catholic rescue) had succeeded in a court case to get an order for better sanitation (among other things) for the refugee camp. The judge ordered that this should be done within 8 days. Since then a few more toilets have been added by Solidarités International and Médecins Sans Frontières – I don’t know how many.

Much more needs to be done; better shelters for a start, tents and plastic tarpaulin can’t withstand the fierce, winter winds of the north of France. In December last year a storm blew tents and tarpaulin away.

The wind started up while I was there, not too strong, yet the plastic sheeting was being blown about on the make-shift shelters. The wood frames are flimsy and the stronger shelters made of pallets, won’t keep out the freezing cold.

This winter will be terrible and the authorities do nothing much to provide proper shelter for the refugees and migrants. The charity workers of the Association Salam and at the depot, Auberge des Migrants (migrant hostel) say they have never enough bedding or clothes or food for them and the promised ship containers, due in January, will only provide sleeping places for 1,500 people.

I saw children there and I’m told that those that have become orphans are cared for by the adult refugees. The adults, mostly men of all races who walked or sat, mainly in groups for comradeship, were all of a young age ranging from teens up to their 30s. I met up with many charity volunteers, English girls among them, helping to make the refugees’ life less horrible. A charity worker describes the camp as a slum – but a slum at least has solid buildings to house people.

I learnt that street artist Banksy’s promised recycled timber had arrived. I read in the US Time magazine that he was sending it across after his Dismaland was dismantled, it had been erected at an English seaside town this summer.

Going by car with friends to Calais, we first went to the Auberge des Migrants’ depot, a big hangar buzzing with industry, with lorries arriving with donations. My small contribution of 3 made up bed rolls and a bag consisting of a meal for 6 people, wasn’t much in comparison, “but it all helps”, said Ash, a young woman volunteer from the UK. She explained that a caravan is parked at the entrance to the camp and is open day and night to receive new arrivals who are immediately given a tent and bedding. Ash said that late one night a woman arrived carrying a baby with her 5 year old son in tow. They had travelled all the way from Syria where, before her baby was born, her husband had been imprisoned and then executed. That first night, the charity made an exception and paid for her to stay in an hotel, after that she and the children had to sleep in a tent, of course.

On the day of the terrorist attacks in Paris (13th November), a fire broke out in a part of the camp. Fortunately no-one was hurt but 30 tents and shelters were destroyed. With the gale force winds we’ve had subsequently, it could have been a lot worse. These people can’t stay there much longer, there’s an aggressive group of immigrants who are frightening Calais residents and people travelling. House fences are torn down, homes are burgled, the latter not necessarily the migrants from the camp, of course, but all the while the camp is there, the finger is pointed at them.


Deux ONG demandent en référé que l’Etat prenne des mesures d’urgence à CalaisParu dans LE MONDE aujourd’hui Mettre le…

Posted by L’Auberge des Migrants on Monday, 26 October 2015

How can we, supposed to be civilised people, allow this situation to continue? Upon reflection I think I was the only person of retirement age there that day.

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Susan Gabriel-Clarke

UK born, Susan, an interior designer, worked as a kitchen planner and arranged two conversions of historic old houses into hotels and in 1989 bought a small hotel in France. She sign-painted advertisements for it and supplemented her income teaching English. Now retired, she and her companion, Pierrot, rent out a holiday home.

  1. Until there is way to identify the one who will “bite the hand that feeds them” this state of affairs will continue. It has been shown that amidst the genuine war refuges are many economic refugees seeking the benefits of the West welfare states. The teens to 30 year old males need to be seeking change in their countries.

  2. The impact that refugees have on the people & economies of countries they pass thru’, or settle in are immense. It’s a noble sentiment that we should welcome all…but realistically, how does that work? Here in South Australia we are on the verge of bankruptcy, we have the highest rate of unemployment in the nation, have crippling welfare costs, have a massive waiting list for public housing, an infrastructure system that is breaking under pressure, charitable orgs are closing their books on new clients, Australian’s homeless & poverty stricken are ever increasing…but yer, lets welcome more refugees fleeing from war or “country (with welfare/public housing systems) shopping”… Here’s a question NO refugee asks, ” is my behaviour/needs going to negatively impact on the people & economies of countries I pass thru’, or settle in? They don’t ask that question because they don’t care…PS I quote,”The adults, mostly men of all races who walked or sat, mainly in groups for comradeship, were all of a young age ranging from teens up to their 30s”. WHY are thousands of ABLE BODIED MEN fleeing THEIR homeland, why aren’t THEY fighting for THEIR OWN HOMELANDS?????

    4 REPLY
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  4. Remember that these people have passed through many safe countries to get to the one they want. A true refugee accepts the first safe place; an economic migrant pursues the best outcome they can identify. Why Europe (or Australia) rather than an Arab country or another Islamic country?

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    • The arab countries dont encourage them there as they don’t want them any more than the rest of the world. They also use the treatment of those refugees as folder for their hate of the west.

    • So why is it OK for Arab countries (with similar cultures) to object to them but necessary for Western countries (with different cultures) to accept them?

    • These people have seen and experienced unbelievable horror which seems to exist in most if not all Middle Eastern countries. This is what they are trying to escape from, thus the reason they try to reach the relatively safe non middle eastern countries. Try putting yourself in their situation and think about what you would do to protect your family and loved ones.

    • Not just the safe countries, but the best ones. That makes them economic migrants. Mostly young men who have left their families and loved ones behind.

  5. Why are all these men not fighting for there homeland! It is very strange where are the women, who are all these men! What underling motive to they have! Do not understand!

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  6. Their own kind (religious beliefs kind) don’t want to have the responsibility for thousands of more mouths to feed so they passvthe buck. There needs to be very strict rules before they are granted any kind of asylum here. Also if South Australia is in such a bad state why don’t we take care of our own first?

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    • Because we don’t want to. It’s that simple. We don’t want to pay more tax. We want the benefits and goodies for ourselves, we don’t want to share. And we elect governments that reflect that selfishness.

  7. Saw a great analogy the other day: If you were given a packet of Smarties and were told that 10 of the Smarties were poisoned, would you still go ahead and eat the Smarties?

  8. I don’t know what to say after reading this. It makes me feel so very sad, they are human beings with families the same as we have, these comments reflect the quote, I’m all right jack stuff you.

  9. Great firsthand insight to their plight ..thankyou for sharing

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    • Thank you Roselyn. I still don’t know what to think about the situation. But when the freezing cold wind blows, especially if there’s rain as well and I can shelter in my snug home but all the time knowing all those people have feeble shelters, I feel so very sorry for them. I’ve more bedding and some jumpers to take along to the depot soon, that’s all I can do. Susan Gabriel.

  10. As another resident who lives 30 miles from Calais here is my opinion of the migrant camp. Every night there are riots, as soon as it gets dark they come out and riot. This is not reported in the press. I have been told by people who work there. Police have warned people not to go out at night. Crime is going up all the time. In the daytime houses get broken into. Residents cannot leave a window open or they are broken in, groups of about 5 at a time go out to raid. There are very few woman and children in the camp they are all fit young men. Mostly Arab now. The camp is a rubbish dump they do nothing to try and keep it cleaned up. There is a bridge on the road towards the ferry, they drop rocks down onto windscreen of lorries. When I was by the camp last week there were about 20 police vans rounding up the migrants who had been causing riots during the night. The person I was driving with has a warehouse overlooking the camp. He will not lock up alone, he says it is too dangerous. His house is nearby, very secure both night a day. Locked shutters all the time. Daughter of a friend has to change the bus in Calais, she is very scared of the migrants. Even at this busy time of the year shops are empty. There is a big shopping area, called The Cite d’Europe. It is empty. I spoke to several shop keepers. They all said the same thing, migrants are keeping shoppers away. One lovely chocolate shop owner said she would have to close as business is so bad since they came. The shop has been there for a good 10 years. Last week 3 hotels were raided by the police, lots of fire arms were found. As a town Calais is now dying. House prices have dropped and one woman who has lived in the same house for 40 years, near the camp has been told to leave for her own security. The migrants have money too, at least 2000 euro each. The more help people give to these migrants the more arrive. They all have mobile phones, they contact their friends. France do not want them, nor does the UK. The majority are NOT refugees, about 1 in 122 are refugees, the rest are economic migrants trying to get to the UK for free housing, medical etc,. England is not like that now. There are not enough houses for the present population, there are no houses on the market. Medical care is at breaking point. But all that is another story.

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