My Visit to the Jungle Camp in Calaisby Ed Hall on 08/26/15
So, my initial thoughts on visiting the infamous Jungle Camp...
Firstly, it doesn't feel very temporary. I visited the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, a chicken and chip shop, eight grocery stores and three phone charging points. This is much more like the 'informal settlements' of Apartheid South Africa. Most of the people I met spoke some English, very few of them spoke French.
I met an Eritrean man of 26 who had broken his leg trying to catch the Eurotunnel train: there are no doctors available to them who speak any languages here apart from French. He has worn a cast for a month, has no idea when to go back to have it taken off or who to see.
There are private security guards with black belts carrying security paraphenalia around the nearby ferry port fences who look very angry, I fear that is not going to go well.
I met a group of four Afghan brothers, one of whom claimed to have worked for the British Army (unless he has been watching re-runs of It Ain't Half Hot Mum at language school I'm inclined to believe him). His youngest brother living there and chasing trains and lorries is twelve. I gave him some sweets and got a massive grin in return.
The conditions are disgusting and something has to be formalised, we would not allow this in England, we shouldn't tolerate it here. There is a series of complex villages within the camp ordered along ethnic and religious lines, which has created a form of government, but it is anarchic and fragile.
I went to Kurdistan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Afghanistan. The Afghans were playing beach volleyball and have started a cricket team. Seriously.
I took tins of ravioli, pasta, bread, oranges and some sweets. I didn't feel threatened at any stage, one man chased me for a while, grabbed me and asked if I had a SIM card, when I said no he apologised. I was offered coffee in three tents and saw balloons being blown up for a child's birthday party in another.
No conclusion really: I don't have an answer to the geopolitical problems, but this informal camp has to be sorted and made more human, dignity and respect for fellow human beings requires that.
The only other major thing I will add is that the extreme British Left is here in force, militant and active. They are holding activist meetings, supporting groups of refugees, repairing their bicycles and organising demonstrations and videoing the police. This is going to get a lot more political yet...