I was very nervous about this trip as I'd heard bad things about the situation in Calais since the Jungle camp was dismantled last year. On my last visit, although obviously a terrible situation for the refugees, I was really impressed with the camp and the sense of community the residents had managed to create for themselves. I was worried that without that community, things would be so much worse for them. This has definitely proved to be the case.
We set off with a van full of donated blankets, sleeping bags, clothes, shoes, toiletries and food and headed for the L'auberge de Migrants warehouse at 2am on Monday morning. The crossing was fine and our worries that we may be turned back, as other charity groups have been, didn't come to anything. Thank goodness!
The Mayor of Calais has recently banned charities from giving out food, clothes or bedding and although they still are, it has become a lot more dangerous, with volunteers being tear gassed whilst sat in their vans as well as heavy handed approach by the French riot police whilst they are distributing food to hungry people.
The situation is dire, with refugees having to choose between having a tent and staying dry (but when the police come the violence will be worse and they will not be able to escape the tear gas and pepper spray) or, have no tent, be wet, cold and exposed but have a better chance of being able to escape when the police come in the night. What a terrible decision to have to make particularly for the women and children primarily in the Dunkirk camps. The police are even taking away babies nappies and food along with tents and blankets.
The work going on in the warehouse we visited is beyond amazing though with numerous charities working together to achieve phenomenal results. We helped sort aid in the warehouse and prepare meals for the thousands of people they cater for across Calais and Dunkirk. We were even lucky enough to share in the food as the volunteers eat the same food as the refugees with the focus being on good healthy food served with respect and compassion.
The systems in place were amazing and we were incredibly impressed with the volunteers who were mostly young people who worked so hard preparing and cooking huge pots of food and then getting it ready to be transported to the refugees sleeping rough.
They also have a youth support team helping both the minors and unaccompanied minors of whom there are many, a legal team helping with asylum applications both in France and the UK, a van with Wi-Fi and charging points, teams going out through the night identifying newcomers and those who are most vulnerable and daily distributions of clothing and bedding.
Our time in Calais was short this time but we are very keen to go back as soon as possible with more donations and to spend longer volunteering with these amazing groups.
If you would like to support our next trip you cab donate via the website or deliver items to either our centres in Mold or Chester. Thank you #teamshare
Posted on behalf of Lowri - Mold Hub Manager on her visit this week.