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From: The Socialist issue 881, 2 December 2015: Don't bomb Syria

Search site for keywords: Refugees - Refugee - European - Britain - Asylum - Shelter - Solidarity - Poverty - Afghanistan - Iraq - Nato - Newport

Eyewitness to the refugee crisis: a visit to 'The Jungle'

Patrick McInally

In November I visited the Calais refugee camp known as 'the Jungle'. I travelled with the impressive Calais Refugee Solidarity Bristol convoy which consisted of lorries carrying supplies, three minibuses of volunteers and a car of coordinators. The group raised an amazing 10,000 in the run up to the mission.

While in Calais I spent time working at a distribution centre. It's here that donations for the camp are delivered and sorted by volunteers.


Right-wing media outlets like the Daily Mail consistently give the impression that the average person is hostile to refugees.

The best antidote to this myth is a visit the distribution centre.

The sight of mountains of donations being sorted by an army of volunteers paints a very different picture. It's only thanks to the generosity of the general public sending these donations that it's possible to feed and clothe a whole community of poverty-stricken refugees.

My final day in Calais was spent preparing food parcels. Part of the work entailed joining a small team to deliver supplies to the camp itself. Visiting 'the Jungle' was one of the most surreal things I've ever done. One moment you're driving though a modern European town, the next you've turned the corner into an impoverished tent city.

It was emotional to see a little girl come running out and give the volunteer I was with a hug. Within seconds of opening the boot of the van a giant line formed.

Despite the desperate situation in the camp we received 'thank yous' and smiles when we handed out packages. Even though the van was filled with food parcels we ran out within minutes. It was deeply upsetting when we had to leave without everyone having been fed.

Sadly, the British government has been consistently unwilling to help refugees despite having contributed to the current crisis through its actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2014 Britain shockingly pulled out of the search and rescue missions which helped to prevent migrants and refugees drowning in the Mediterranean. And when the crisis hit the headlines the British government simply offered to reinforce French border controls by donating the metal fence used to protect the Newport NATO Summit.


'The Jungle' is home to 6,000 people. It would be perfectly feasible for Britain to offer the right to asylum and a home to all these individuals. It is a condemnation of the Tories and their 'British values' that they have not done so. An infinitesimal amount of effort would be required to address the issue of the Calais camp.

Throughout Europe activists must force governments to address this burning issue and demand that some of the billions of pounds that slosh around the European Union are spent on shelter and sanctuary for those trekking across the continent.

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