Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Floyd Croll - Day 3 in Refugee camp

Calais Report Day 3:

After 2 days mini break in Arras and Paris I have had time to reflect on my experiences within the refugee camp. I also had time to notice that the mainstream media have started to be more positive towards the situations many refugees have found themselves in. I will explain why this is may not be such a positive thing at the end of this report.
The refugee camp in Calais is commonly known as "The Jungle", which would imply a land of limited rules and inhabited by Animals. However, a Jungle could also be described as a place of unexpected beauty.

One thing that is evident upon entering the camp is how sporadic the Police presence is and also how limited the support agencies within the camp are. Many are in fact volunteers. Recent government speeches and media reports would suggest that "all is under control now. We've noticed the plight of these people go back to your normal lives. We're getting this sorted now. Yet, after 3 hours I walked past one policeman and 4 volunteers. In a camp of  3000+ refugees. Hardly inspires confidence.

This evening’s mission was again to play sport. Football (naturally) and Volleyball were on the sporting menu this evening. One thing that has surprised me instantly when playing sports in the camp is the level of enthusiasm, energy and joy the refugees play the games with. What makes these attributes so vividly amazing and inspiring is that many of the refugees will not have eaten today. The government supplies refugees with one meal per day, which often involves a queue of over 3 hours in exposed conditions. More amazing still is that a lot of them are playing barefoot, on a mixture of sand, sharp stones and only God knows what else. Yet their passion for the game, and commitment to 'nutmegging' me never waivers once. I cannot help but wish Wayne Rooney would show even half of this commitment when representing the national side.

The members of the camp join in with each game, there are no national barriers or conflicts during the games (nor in the camp in general might I add). There is no privilege either, when football commences we are all treated equal, and I was by no means exempt from being "piggy in the middle". In fact a few of the refugees noticed that I was in the middle "quite a lot". I left the camp feeling elated on one hand after 3+ hours of football but on the other, a story few will report is starting to become evident in the camp.

Winter is coming. Today’s football was played in the light drizzle of a September evening in Northern France. However, when walking past the makeshift tents on the way out you can start to hear the deep coughs one becomes accustomed to hearing in a GP's waiting room.

The reality is, the longer people are kept in the camps the greater the chance of Illness and death. Warm clothing sent and distributed by kind volunteers will not be enough to help the refugees survive winter here.

Admittedly even David Cameron isn't stupid enough to let 3000 refugees die so close to the English border but how much punishment is he and other leaders willing to let refugees suffer. A few deaths would be ok right? Send an example to other Refugees looking to make the same journey next year perhaps.. ?

I get the feeling that after the initial wave of media interest in this story fades and is replaced by the inevitable celebrity exposing themselves on the front pages, there is a real danger of these refugees being forgotten.

One of the main reasons I came out to visit and try to help within the Camp. All be it, by playing football mostly. It was because I couldn't get the fact that this is the largest movement of people/ refugees since World War 2. How can we ignore such facts. It's terrifying quite frankly, is humanity really heading back towards are darkest times again? Phrases such as 'since world war 2". Something must change soon and for me, a change in attitude.
Whether a person is escaping a warzone or relative poverty and looking for a new life in Europe. We need to accept the conditions our collective governments are subjecting people to is borderline criminal. How hard would it really be to build more permanent shelters?! People, no matter what race, religion or status should not be reduced to sleeping in bin bags for over 3 months. Yes. That's right, although the story has only been in the mainstream media for a month or so. Many people in the camp have been here for 3 months or more. Sleeping in tents or bin bag shacks, on one meal a day. 100 miles from London.

I do not pretend to have the answers to these issues. All I would say is that if you can help DO. If you can't just hug your loved ones extra tight and try not to be too much of a d**k about this situation. Not comparing it to other problems is a good start.

Playing sport with the people of the camp has been an absolute joy and from personal experiences, I can confirm that there are no animals in this Jungle and humanity here continues to flourish despite little nourishment and care …..


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