After the southern half of the Jungle refugee camp was dismantled last winter, the headlines were all about fires and fights that had broken out in the area. Many people talked about the police’s inhumane treatment of the refugees — most of whom crammed themselves into the northern half of the camp after their eviction. I was one of those people talking about it. But nobody ever told me what it looks like when a large group of human beings is forced to relocate against their will.
The first thing that caught my eye was an abandoned teddy bear. It was lying in a patch of weeds, next to an empty bowl and a plastic ink pen. Then I spotted a lone shoe a few feet away. There were a lot of other things lying around, too. A few feet away from the old shoe was a pile of decaying clothes, used tea bags and crumpled plastic cups.
On the flip side of the things they had to leave behind is what these refugees have found in Calais.
Many of them spoke to us about the lack of resources, and their desire to go to the UK because most of the volunteers they’ve met are British, and they may have family and friends there. But others spoke to us about the communities they’ve created in the camp — about the hours they spend making tea together, or the way they share money so they’ll be able to buy enough food for Iftar, during Ramadan. The children, who are learning English, French and math together at their new school, have quickly formed friendships.
It is utterly dehumanizing to make assumptions or center myself in a narrative that is not my own, so everything written here is merely a reflection on the things the Jungle’s residents told me. I want to thank everyone who spoke to us about their experiences, who taught us some relevant phrases in Pashto, who gave us chai.
They welcomed us into their communities and homes because they want people to understand that they, too, are human. They made it clear that they deserve better than this. From Syria to Palestine, as this street art from the entry bridge to the Jungle shows, injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. We owe it to our fellow human beings to affirm their lived experiences.
— Madhuri Sathish