Thursday, 20 October 2016

Calais diary, Oct 12 - The second day

On the second day here, I went to the Warehouse of the British organisation l'Auberge des Migrants. They receive loads of donations, sort them, check them and hand them out to refugees if they are suitable, and if they are not, but still good, they sell them and use the money to help refugees. We signed a paper, and then we were insured while working with them. They had a little warm-up with us, and then a briefing of what we are doing and why. Everything was aimed to getting as high efficiency as possible in our work, so that as much as possible of our efforts and donations would actually go into a good use for the refugees. I especially enjoyed the advice on toilet paper:
"We've noticed that some volunteers use extra toilet paper to try and cover up what they've done in there. Ehm, we do know what you do in there, it's a toilet, and if you cover it up with paper it only means that they fill up faster so we have to go and empty them more often, and of course buy more toilet paper, and all this eats in to our time and resources."
It creates such a lovely relaxed feeling of community and normal, simple humanness when a beautiful girl with long, blond hair stands there talking like that!

But she also said more important things, like that we only hand out to refugees clothes that are flawless, that is they don't have any wholes, stains, missing buttons etc. This is because our gifts reflect how we think about them, and where they come from, torn clothes are not a fashion thing but a marker of poverty and despair. When later I was standing in the quality check station for clothes, I therefore sorted the best clothes for refugees, and those clothes that were a bit torn or broken but still cool and good-looking, for the charity shop, well aware that the volunteers would buy them and love them. Because for us, it's a choice. We CAN walk around in tuxedo and evening gown, if we really, really want to.

She also explained that we newcomers would not be sent into the Jungle*, the way things were now. In the normal case, some of us would be going there every day, and she said that she realized that it makes it more difficult to be working with the relatively hard physical labor that we are doing here, if we never get to see it for ourselves when the help reaches its destination, but the thing is that president Hollande has promised that the Jungle will be demolished, and since there is some kind of a law in France that nobody can be evicted from their homes in winter time, no matter how illegal this home might be, it will probably happen any day now, and the atmosphere in the Jungle is therefore very tensed and stressed. A number of thefts have suddenly occurred, cars have been looted and fights and arguments break out easily. Therefore nowadays only experienced members of l'Auberge go into the Jungle.

(We in Utopia are of course there daily anyway, picking trash.)

Then she still went through briefly what rules they had for those who did go into the Jungle, just to give us some understanding of how we work. Among other things, she said that the refugees' own organisations (the ones organised by the refugees) had requested that we female volunteers wear clothes that cover legs and upper body, including shoulders and chest. This was partly because they wanted us to be respected as guests in the camp, and not suffer any sexual harassment which might otherwise easily be the case, since bare shoulders, deep neck lines etc, symbolizes something else in several of the countries that many of the refugees come from. But also because if the atmosphere becomes sexual in daytime when we volunteers are there, the sexual assaults increase in nighttime, against mostly the women and children living in the camp, that is, the refugees themselves.

Another rule was that we must never take any refugee's picture in which they could be identified, because if one of those get out, it might jeopardize their asylum process later, and even if we don't have the intention of publishing the photo or hand it over to anybody, it makes people nervous and anxious and they have a rough enough situation already. There have also been a number of journalists here and they generally don't write nice things. The camp is not very popular around here...

I met a German volunteer, Carola, who said that we should focus more on the decisions that our leaders make, bring people's attention to them and thereby try to change them. So I told her how I had sent an e-mail to every single one of our green party MPs, after they had voted through the decision to almost completely close the door to refugees (with the support of the most right wing party Moderaterna and the racist party Sverigedemokraterna and nobody else) asking them how they could stay in a government that did that. How they could claim that it was better to stay and have an influence, after this. I wrote:
"WHAT then, are you going to do, in those two years remaining of the current period, that will have such an enormous impact that it balances up for what you just did?!"
She said:
"I guess nobody answered?"
But oh no, many answered. They answered things like accommodation, trains and green fuels... They just haven't realized that they made history with the decision of closing the borders. (At this point, several other international volunteers around us agreed and said that they had believed Sweden would be the final outpost, those who would never give up on humanism, the living example that an other way is possible that they always have been... and that when Sweden also failed, that's when they lost hope.) You can't make history with green fuels today. 20 years ago, yes, but not today. The same goes for accommodation and trains...

And anyway, who cares! Who cares if there is accommodation and trains! Who cares if the planet survives! What's the point of even being alive, of having societies with people and activities in them...... if this is what we do to people.

I met another volunteer who said:
"They're waisting a good 10 years of their lives, trying to find a home in countries that don't want them"
Mattias told me that he had met a person in the Jungle who was fluent in Swedish. You see, he had lived in Sweden for 9 years, before finally having received his final denial of his asylum application, after appeals, and been deported back to Afghanistan. Now he was in the Jungle to try and get into the UK instead, to live there illegally. No more asylum processes for him!

Another person that Mattias met had lived illegally in London for 6 years, working as a taxi driver, until one day he was caught and deported. Now he was back in the Jungle...

A 14 year old boy died on the highway the other day, run over by a truck, while trying to sneak onboard a truck to England. The driver took off. Maybe they never even noticed having hit anything. Maybe... no, I won't write that. The boy who died had a brother and two uncles in England, thus having the legal right to come and live there. He had started the legal process to do so, but after having heard how very long time that takes, he decided to still try and get there on his own. He was 14! He was marked by war and violence! He needed to be with his family, in a safe environment, to be able to heal and become a whole human being! Now he will be united with his family only in heaven...

How can we be this wasteful with human lives.

And how can we talk about green fuels, while this purely human made, politically constructed catastrophe is still going on?

*The Jungle = The informal settlement in Calais where thousands of refugees live in tents and home made shelters, many after having tried to go to the UK but failed

(To be continued)

No comments:

Post a Comment