On Wednesday morning we left for Paris with our van crammed full with 80 sleeping bags and some small tents. We left in convoy with Sharon and Jim, a couple from North Yorkshire. Like us, they have worked hard to collect donations of cash and essential items, and distributed goods around the camp.
In Paris we met Danika, a Yugoslavian refugee who has been distributing tents and other essential items for about a year. Her basement is a storage depot, and unloading and reloading the van quietly in the dark so as not to attract attention on a busy street, we couldn't help feeling like we were part of a resistance movement.
From there we headed for the Rue de Flandres.
In the North of the city. Here we were amazed to see such a vast number of flimsy tents and shelters. Danika reliably informed us that there are 3000 refugees sleeping on the streets of Paris. As we arrived in the city, the police were tear gassing and destroying an area of tents so our supplies were hugely welcome. As we parked our two camper vans, a queue quickly formed on the pavement and 80 sleeping bags were distributed in a pleasant and orderly way. Our previous distribution experiences came in handy!
Of course the last bag to be handed out is a bitter sweet moment, as alas there are always people who go away empty handed. The good spirit of these encounters with people who are able to say thank you, even when they go away empty handed, is something that motivates us to return.
Before leaving we were able to chat with a group of young Afghans. We discovered a 4 year old girl whose mother had been killed, being looked after by her granny and other members of an extended family. We also chatted with the cousin of the 15 year old boy killed a couple of weeks ago. He recounted how this gentle quiet boy had his knee caps battered and crushed by the Bulgarian police. What bravery and resilience to keep on going and get as far as Calais.
Meanwhile, back at the Calais Jungle, a hundred plus minors have been refused registration and had nowhere safe to sleep last night. The lies coming from the Calais Prefecture on live TV this morning were, that she had rung all the voluntary organisations in the camp, to check all children had a safe place to sleep.
Not one call was made.
This morning, numbers of children were forceably removed by the police because they had no registration wrist bands. These were the 100 or so children who had been turned away from the registration centre the day before.
Various Facebook pages can keep you updated- Care4Calais, Help Refugees, Refugee Youth Service.
The photo shows children in a burned out tent, bewildered and confused. The police and French authorities having declared the camp empty!
It is becoming clear to us that the closure of the camp has only served to shift the problem to other areas.
Already we are seeing record numbers arriving in Paris.
Steve and Pauline
0 CommentsNo comments posted