A Taste of Home

To enter the Jungle of Calais is to enter a complex society that is not everyone’s picture of a refugee camp. Migrants own bookstores and restaurants. Community members and volunteers make their way through the sandy streets of the makeshift encampment, to eateries for a meal, some conversation and maybe a game of cards.

Consider the lively New Kabul Restaurant, where heaping portions of chickpea salad and spicy meat sauce are served with generous portions of naan. Or consider the Welcome Restaurant, which doubles as a convenience store selling shampoo and Red Bull.

Hasham, one of the Welcome Restaurant’s co-owners, born in Afghanistan, has chosen to live in the Jungle. “There’s too much problem in Afghanistan,” he says.

He fled the violence in Afghanistan five years ago and made his way to Italy and then England, where he lived for two months in Birmingham. When he learned late last year that thousands of migrants had taken refuge in the makeshift encampment that would become known as the Jungle, he decided to open his restaurant.

“Some job for business,” he says.

Although he had no prior experience with cooking, Hasham now greets and serves customers, who slowly start trickling in during the late afternoon. Business has slowed due to Ramadan, but following sunset, he serves excellent sweet and savory portions of rice with carrot and raisin – which I sampled. Men play cards or watch the television broadcasting ABP News, an Indian news channel.

Poverty and transience are part of life in the camp, which lies near the channel tunnel. Irish volunteer Michael McHugh says that when he tells children, “See you tomorrow,” they often remind him that by tomorrow, they hope to reach the United Kingdom.

— Forrest Hanson

 

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