“You Go UK?”

This week, I popped over to London for a day or two to catch up with some friends and family, a trip which was absolutely lovely but also fully reaffirmed my need to be in Calais for the moment. I could harp on for days about my issues with London as a place to live so I’ll save that for another time, but I could not shake my unease with this privileged position where I can hop across the Channel without batting an eyelid (for now, anyway) while I am working with people who are literally killing themselves to try and do the same thing just once.When I returned to camp on Wednesday, I had people asking me: “Where have you been? You go UK?”, and I couldn’t bring myself to tell people “oh yeah, I just popped over for a catch up with my mum and some old friends. How’s life been with you?” I’m sure it won’t be the last time I make a trip over to the UK in the coming months, but it certainly won’t get any easier to do (mentally rather than physically, although who know what’s going to happen with Brexit).

Otherwise, this week has been fairly chilled, or as chilled as a week here can be. We are still offering our evening food distribution in Calais, but the police have stepped up their intimidation tactics over the past few evenings. On Saturday night, 3 police vans, 2 CRS transits and an unmarked car full of armed officers encircled our operation, giving us a completely made up “set time” that we had to be finished serving food by. After said “set time”, they started sweeping through the field, randomly checking the papers and passports of the almost 170 young men and teenagers who were sitting eating on what was otherwise a completely smooth and sunny evening. Volunteers filmed the situation, which we feel may have prevented unnecessary arrests being made, but the police are being deliberately provocative under the instruction of the Calais mayor who is intent on making it as difficult as possible for us to provide food to these people, and this is not only unacceptable but also unconstitutional. Watch this space, because it’s bound to get worse.

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Armed police surrounding terrified teenagers committing the crime of eating food. Pic: Help Refugees UK.

We’re into April now – hard to believe that it’s almost been 2 months since I first came to Calais “for a week” – and this month brings with it the first round of the French elections. It’s definitely going to be an interesting time to be here, and I hope that as many people as possible in this area find some form of safety and refuge before things spiral out of control. There are almost 100 unaccompanied minors living in Dunkirk, and undoubtedly many more around Calais, and it is desperately sad to see these kids so lost in the world without any real support system in place. Again, I think I’ll be here for the long haul.

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A well stocked free shop in Dunkirk, which feeds hundreds of people every single day of the year. 

If you’ve considered coming to join Refugee Community Kitchen or any other organisations operating around Calais, even for a few days, then please do! Drop us an email at refugeecommunitykitchen@gmail.com. If you’re here for a few months, shared accommodation is provided, and even if you’re just here for a shorter time you can stay in our caravans for just £5 a night. There is also a youth hostel and various Airbnb options available in the area. Aside from physically getting to Calais (which you can do cheaply with a bus from London), your only real expense is food in the mornings and evenings and anything you choose to do with a day off. Accommodation in the campsite, transport to and from the campsite, lunch, some breakfast items, snacks, tea and coffee are all provided. So for anyone who’s asked me how I’m affording to be here, aside from the fact I had money saved up for travelling anyway I probably spend roughly £2 a day on food – put it this way, I spent more in London in one day than I’ve spent here in an entire month. If you’re at all interested, get in touch with me, I’d love to see you out here.

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Gang’s all here. A fond farewell to the lovely Shep and Nat – thanks for everything! 

Chris

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