Thursday, 19 November 2015

The Little Girl

The little girl.  I can’t stop thinking about her.  Every time I hear about events in the Jungle, I think of her. 

I think of what she feels when she hears the bang that signifies another tear gas canister winging its way into the Jungle.  I think of how she understands the thick smoke makes your eyes and nose stream and cough hard. I think of her being cold and living in such horrendous conditions. I think of the fire the other night that wiped out 150 peoples homes. I worry that she has been affected by the smoke.  I worry about her little body resisting infections and how she'll fail to thrive living in such unsanitary conditions. I worry about her and her family.

I have a photo of her but I do not feel comfortable sharing photos of children when I do not have the consent of the parents.  I look at the photo every single day. And I think about her.

I’ve no idea what her name is or how old she is. I thought she was about 6 months old until I saw her walk.  Then I realised she was older – maybe as old as 18 months. She’s just very small. 

What do I know about her?  She was in a new area of the camp on the second visit.  We first saw her sat outside her ‘home’, a tent in the Jungle.  She was sitting on her mums knee watching her older brothers play in the muddy ‘street’ outside the tent. Dad was stoking the fire beside them.  The fire was two old wheel rims welded together.  Great idea for a makeshift stove, bad idea for a stove in the Jungle where a spark can cause devastation.  Very bad idea for a camp with little children playing around.

The little girl was smiling.  Her mum was deep in thought.  Her Dad looked traumatised.  I know they are from Syria. I can imagine how the family got to Europe.  I have visions of little Aylan and his family.  Its unthinkable. 

I signaled to the little girls mum and her mum smiled and indicated I could approach the little girl.  I kneeled down beside her and held her hands.  She was so cold. She was still smiling.  My heart ached that little bit more.

The next day, we were sorting out socks for some friends from Afghanistan.  In among the black socks, we noticed something pink. Somehow a pair of childs mittens had found themselves in beside a box of mens socks. It was fate.  

It was dusk when we made our way back to the family home.  All the family were outside their shelter sitting round the makeshift stove. It was very cold and very muddy.  I showed the little girls mum what I had in my pocket and she smiled.  She unwrapped the little girls hands from her jumper sleeves.  I kneeled down and held her cold hands and put the mittens on.  She looked at her hands in amazement. She looked at me with surprise.  She started to rub her hands together and then held them up to show her mum and then turned to me with the biggest grin. It broke me.

How can something so simple be so needed and appreciated? How can a simple and basic need for a child not be met?  The very time when her parents should be enjoying being parents, they are stuck in France in a camp.  I can’t imagine what the family have been through. I do know that the little girl needs a proper home and to be able to look forward to a proper future filled with warmth and hope. Not in the Calais Jungle where nothing is guaranteed.

When we go back to the Jungle, one of the first shelters that will get one of our Frontier Stoves is the little girl and her family so that they don’t have to sit outside round an open fire to cook and keep warm.  They can sit inside and be warm.

To the person who donated the little pink and white mittens – you gave something that you probably have fought with a toddler to put on their hands.  You have made a difference. Not only for that little girl, but to me. You made me realise that we should never underestimate the need people have.  We should never underestimate the little things that we take for granted and there is a little girl with cosy hands who loves her new pair of mittens.  Thank you.

To everyone who has shared and/or donated for our Frontier Stove appeal, please know that to this little girl and her family, you have made their lives so much better.  

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Stories from the Jungle Trip 2

I can’t sleep tonight because my thought processes won’t slow down.  We’ve had lots of positive things happen today and are starting to plan trip 3 to Calais camp to start installing Frontier Stoves into tents.  My brain keeps going into overdrive and as a result, my lovely Dad and I will be working on a prototype child safety fireguard to put in front of the stoves.  If we can get enough of the old type fireguards donated, it won’t cost us anything and will make the stoves that bit safer.

It got me thinking why these stoves are so important.  From my first blog on the first trip to Calais, I mentioned our Sudanese friends.  On arrival in the Jungle on trip 2, Lily and I were desperate to see them.  We made our way to their ‘area’ and there was a sense of relief when we saw them all safe and well and very happy to see us.  There were hugs and handshakes all round before our friends put that special tea on their open fire. We introduced Fiona, who was on her first journey to the Jungle, to our friends. Fiona was welcomed into the fold and by the end of the visit, our friends were calling her ‘Mama Fiona’!

Lily had bought Abdullah* an oven glove.  Abdullah was the one that always made the tea. It consisted of pot of water boiled on an open fire with half a bag of sugar and several teabags. Its served into little cups and glasses. No milk and definitely no need for sugar! Fiona doesn’t like tea normally however by the end of the trip, she was loving ‘Jungle Tea’.  When Abdullah poured the tea from the large pot, he always seemed to burn his hands. Lily’s oven glove was very gratefully received by Abdullah!

On our second day, we visited our friends. Hassan* told us that Jafar* had gone to try jump onto a train to get to the UK the previous night and no one had seen him or heard from him since. They had been trying to call his phone but it was switched off.  The next day Jafar was still missing.  Our friends asked us to help but we didn’t know what to do.  Two of the ‘community’ had recently been caught by the police and deported. We were told that if caught, the men from Sudan either said they were Eritrean or stayed silent.  We were all so worried and felt completely powerless. On the third day, we visit to see if there is any news.  Jafar was back! We were so relieved. 

Jafar told us that he’d been detained by the police.  Because he refused to tell them his name and nationality, he was held for 48 hours then released.  He told us that during his time in custody, he was not given any food or water. He didn’t seem perturbed by this at all although we were taken aback. Then it occurred to me that this could happen – who would he report it to?  Thats torture.  No other words for it.  My first blog makes it clear how I feel about the French authorities.  After the second trip, my opinion has deteriorated somewhat but more on that at a later date.

On our final night, our friends invited us for dinner.  Because the weather is colder, one of the structures in their community area has been turned into a seating area to eat and chat.  Ahmad was cooking for us. However because the weather is so poor,  Ahmad was cooking over an open fire within a nearby tent structure. The smoke was belching out of the tent door yet Ahmad was in there stirring the pot.   Apart from the point that open fires in tents are a fire hazard, Ahmad was breathing in toxic fumes.   Fires in the Jungle are not unusual and if our friends indoor cooking area caught fire, it would spread very quickly throughout the community area. This is worrying.  For a film of a fire that occurred a few days after we left, see HERE  There are around 10-12 men in this section of the camp that live communally.  The thought of giving them a frontier stove to enable them to make a living room where they could be warm and cook safely while they wait.

What are they waiting on?  Well.  The reality is that some try to come to the UK. Every other night, they risk their lives to try to jump on a moving train in order to come to the UK. They want to work, learn, reconnect with family members and have a future.   

Is staying in France an option?  According to the latest UNHCR data for the year 2014, France received 68,500 asylum applications.  53,685 applications were rejected.  That is 78% of all applications. The EU nations average is 55% of applications rejected. Its not as simple as saying the UK is a soft touch. The UK received less than half of the asylum applications France did - 32,000.  The UK rejected 61% of all asylum claims last year.

While we were there, *Dahab claimed asylum in France.  How do the French authorities treat asylum seekers?  They send them back to the Jungle of course. Dahab could wait up to 5 years for a decision. He’s confined himself to the Jungle.

I do have another story to tell.  One relating to a baby girl from Syria who I cannot stop thinking about.  She occupies a lot of my thoughts.  She may be the focus of my next ramblings.

*not their real names

For more information about our Stove Appeal, please see:

Statistical data regarding asylum claims can be found at:

Monday, 9 November 2015

Some figures that blow the myths out of the water

Am off on one tonight.  Mostly because the the ITN report which can be found HERE

According to UNHCR, the UK has 117,161 refugees, 36,383 pending asylum cases and 16 stateless persons.

The UK will accept another 20,000 by 2020

According to the ITN News report tonight, The following numbers have arrived in countries across Europe in just ONE week:

  • Croatia: 51,725 adding to a total of 317,990 since September 2015.
  • Serbia: 42,907, adding to a total of 363 arrivals since January 2015.
  • Greece: 39,054, overall 656,108 arrivals since January 2015.
  • Slovenia: 32,240, a decrease of 50% in comparison to the previous week, overall 139,322 arrivals since October 2015.
  • Macedonia: 24,386, adding to a total of 214,343 since June 2015.
  • Italy: 865 new arrivals, adding to a total of 141,501 since January 2015.
  • Hungary: 65, overall 390,929 arrivals since January 2015.
Puts paid to this nonsense about how we are 'inundated'. Most of these countries do not have the wealth or resources that we have.

You and I cannot possibly comprehend what it is like to flee your home, leaving family behind, due to war.

Some more information which is the most up to date regarding applications for asylum per country in Europe:

  1. Germany 260,000
  2. Hungary 101,000
  3. Sweden 72,000
  4. Austria 45,000
  5. Italy, 69,000
  6. France 59000
  7. UK 32,000
  8. Netherlands 20,000
  9. Belgium 17,000
  10. Bulgaria 15,000
  11. Greece 9,000

I feel quite ashamed that I live in a country who, for their own selfish reasons, does not reach out to those who are in trouble.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

A month later...

Its been around a month since I first published my blog and its had more views than I could ever have imagined.

Since then lots has changed.  Firstly, we organised ourselves better and have now established a Community Interest Company, East Lothian Aid for Refugees.  For more information, please see our shiny new website:  Our Facebook page would also appreciate some likes!   We are now able to seriously fundraise to help people in Calais and look at where else we can assist.

Secondly, I have been back to the Jungle with my two travelling companions, Lily and Fiona.  Although I had been there before, it was heart wrenching.  It was so much colder and so much muddier. Nothing could have prepared us for the fact that the Jungle has doubled in size to approximately 6,000 inhabitants. This includes lots of women and children.  The additional toilets could not possibly make an impact on a camp that doubled in size over a period of just three weeks.  I'm laid low with flu at the moment but will write a bit about the current situation in the Jungle later.

We've looked at various options on what we can do.  All of what we are looking for is on our website.  If you are lucky enough to have any spare cash at this time of year, we are looking to raise funds to install Frontier Stoves in tents in Calais. They're expensive but undoubtedly the best option, particularly given the recent fires caused by gas stoves and burning open fires under tarpaulin.   Our link to donate and everything else we need is here.

If you can help in any other way, please do get in touch

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

This should explain a few things...

Writing helps me immensely – its my form of therapy.  These are my thoughts, words, experiences and feelings of what happened in the Jungle.  I have taken the decision not to give names, which might make things a bit confusing at times, because I do not have permission. Even the names of my travelling friends are missing.  I cannot speak for how anyone else perceives their experiences. I can only speak for me.   While writing this, I’ve experienced every emotion possible. I own what I’ve written here. I take responsibility. 

There are no photographs. I have shared a few photos on my Facebook account but I won’t be sharing any here on the basis that somehow it feels like you are a tourist when you take photos. I didn’t take that many and I’d feel almost disrespectful by sharing the ones I do have.  The photos that I haven’t shared are private and personal.  If you want to see the Jungle in its glory, by all means Google Images has many. I don’t mean that to sound bad – images are important but I don’t feel my photos will add anything which hasn’t been shared already many times.

First a bit about how I got here.  I’m a mum of two grown up daughters.  I’ve spent the last 20 years involved in animal rights campaigning.  I am adopted mum to six rescued greyhounds and three rescued hens. I’ve worked in housing/homelessness for many years and miraculously finished an MSc in Housing in June.  I’m married to the love of my life (after my hounds of course) and live in Haddington, East Lothian.  I’ve previously been to Tanzania, Ghana and Sri Lanka to work with people with different charities.  I’ve read a lot about conflict.  I’ve read more books and visited more WW2 war sites than I can name.

I tell people that I prefer dogs to humans but truth be told, I like people too as long as they’re not bigoted, arrogant, superior or treat other people/animals poorly. I try not to notice injustice in the media.  This is on the basis that I get involved – too involved people say.  I knew about the refugee crisis.  I didn’t want to pay attention because I knew what would happen.  Then those scenes.  Unlike anyone else, it wasn’t the little boy that bothered me – of course it did.  But it was the scenes at the railway station in Budapest that shocked me to the core. 

I started pestering people about the situation by email and had a plan to set up a collection point for clothing and items in my house.  Given the generosity of the people of East Lothian, I’m more than relieved now that our MP stepped in and opened his office.  We spent some time helping there and every spare minute reading and emailing and trying to work out what to do.  I was frustrated, upset and felt the need to do more. I somehow found myself agreeing to go on a fact-finding mission to the camp they call ‘The Jungle’ in Calais with five people that I didn’t know.  The reason for our trip was to take some items that were donated, make contacts with people on the ground and work out how we can help.

We left the next day.  There were two vans with three people in each that headed off. One van and its passengers were staying two nights, we weren’t sure how long we would be staying.

Day 1 - The Jungle

We arrive a day late.  Thats a long story!  We get emotional from the first sighting of ‘that’ fence – the one that makes the “Jungle” look like a concentration camp. Three fences that stretch forever with razor wire at the top. The fence that cost an obscene amount of money. Money that could have been poured into helping rather than controlling the people who reside in the Jungle. 

The main road in to the Jungle is blocked off by French police in full riot gear.  Then a text comes through from a trusted volunteer advising of trouble in the camp this morning.  We’re not quite sure what has happened but there are lots of police.  This could be normal, we’re not sure.  The camp from the main road looks just awful and we’re all visibly shaken. We spend ages driving around trying to find the only access left to the Jungle. Eventually we get there.

We are picked up almost immediately by a volunteer who drives us over the sandy banks into the hub of the camp. My initial impressions are that it looks just like the settlements I’d previously seen in Ghana and Tanzania except this is tents and wooden structures with tarpaulin over them, not mud huts.  But this is France in 2015. Just 23 miles away from the UK. It just blows my mind.

Three of us are sent out to look for women.  Its clothing distribution day for women so we need to let them know where to go.  We start to walk through the Jungle looking for women and immediately get caught up in other things.  

We meet a 27 year old Syrian man. He is in shock.  He tells us, in perfect English, that his mother sent him away from Damascas because she was frightened for his safety. His sister, her husband and his two nieces had already been killed. He tells us that his mother still remains in Syria. She isn’t capable of making the journey to “safety” and her only option is to go to neighbouring Lebanon where the camps are described as much worse than the Jungle as they are overcrowded and cramped with few resources. Conditions there are apparently awful and her health issues mean that its very unlikely she would survive.

As we speak to the man, he tells us that his eyes are sore. He tells us he was camped on the fringes of the Jungle and at 6 a.m. this morning, he was woken by the French police firing tear gas canisters amongst the tents.  He was then hauled out of the tent and marched, by the police, into the perimeter of the Jungle.  A bulldozer then came and destroyed all his possessions and he only had the clothing he stood in.  I am close to tears as I ask him why the French police did this. He says ‘we’re animals – its fine’. I tell him its not fine – its anything but fine.  I have to turn away because I can feel the tears of outrage that an articulate and intelligent young man, who would be an absolute asset to any country which he settles in, feels that he is subhuman.

It became apparent it isn’t just a few people that had been woken up in such a manner.  There are nearly 300 individuals, mainly from Syria and fleeing the devastation of war, all left with only the clothing they stand in. Some had even lost their documentation – everything they possessed was gone. The French police wouldn’t allow them to return to collect any of their belongings. They had no shelter. We quickly set to work trying to source things for them.

We have brought a huge army marquee. Problem is that we don’t know how to put this up – its massive. It will provide much needed shelter.  We meet more volunteers and they come to help us. Some of the guys who live in camp help too.  

I use the term ‘live’ but I really want to say ‘exist’.  The solidarity within communities is quite amazing and lots of the displaced-by-the-French-police Syrians have already found some shelter with other people in the camp. Others are lucky enough to get donations.  Our tent will provide shelter for a few nights.

We have a van full of items brought from home deemed to be necessary items such as waterproof coats. We learn quickly that if you spend time in the camp before you attempt distribution, recruit your own ‘security team’ (all of which are rewarded by giving them other items that we don’t have a lot of such as torches and gloves), ensure the lines are kept in order and take your time, you can distribute easily.  What doesn’t sit right with me is the dehumanising aspect of queues.  We discuss options for this but there is no solution that we can think of at this stage.  We know we have items which are needed – we just aren’t quite sure how to get them to the people who need them.

Unfortunately there are lots of people who come to the Jungle with ‘aid’ and are overwhelmed or bring the wrong items.  Then there are piles of discarded items. Some people simply dump the goods they’ve brought and run. This results in an increasing problem with litter in the jungle.  Facilities to discard waste, such as black bags, are in short supply.  Since we left Calais, a team came in from Sheffield and cleared the site with rubbish and handed out bin bags.  Amazing work!

I don’t have the strongest bladder in the world (too much information?!) so the only option is for me to use one of the few make-shift toilets that are in the camp.  They’re just awful.  My work in Ghana was all about toilets and health and these toilets were worse than anything I ever saw in rural Ghana.  They’re just awful.  Its a cholera outbreak waiting to happen. Raw sewerage is running into the streets. Some portaloos are there but these are also just awful. There is no other words – its just awful.  There are some taps in the Jungle but most appear to leak.  The amazing team of volunteers try to stay on top of the leaks to repair them and its these leaks that create a lot of puddles which in turn, make the roads around the camp very muddy.

I should explain more about the Jungle because sure as hell that the mainstream UK media won’t show you the reality.  Its a piece of land reclaimed from the sea on the Eastern outskirts of the port of Calais.  Its basically sand and dirt.  The authorities put up an embankment on the only road into the Jungle. It now has a couple of entrances in these embankments where you can drive into the actual camp. The Jungle is an unofficial or illegal camp. This is why the mainstream charities can’t work there.  Some tents and structures are better than others.  Some will last the winter. Others won’t.  When it rains, the roads turn to sludge. There are ‘lakes’ in the camp. A few are really just large puddles which never drain.  The camp is divided loosely into sections according to nationality. People tend to live communally.  

It should be noted that the camp changes constantly with new arrivals and departures.  Estimates are that a year ago there were just 1.300 in the camp. That is thought to have risen to between 3,000 and 4,000 as of September 2015.  As you can imagine, the population of a makeshift camp increasing as fast as this has led to real crisis in the camp due to the lack of resources.

Against general thought, there are people in the camp who don’t want to come to the UK.  Some have claimed asylum in France and are awaiting the outcome.  Some are employed in Calais.  The reasons why they are there is irrelevant because they are there because its safer than home, they’ve all got stories to tell and they all want a life and a future. No one wants to be there. No one would choose to live there. Not one person I spoke to appeared aware of our welfare state or our social housing.  When talking about the future, the priorities were finding their families, having dreams and aspirations and finding a job.  What is wrong in that?  All that I asked said they would return to their home country if they could in the future.  Many still had family who hadn’t escaped.  Some didn’t know if they were alive or dead. 

The only important thing is that they are human beings in need living in conditions which are so far beyond unacceptable. And this is happening. In Western Europe. 23 miles from our shores.

I see people living in the Jungle and think that if my birth country was destroyed by bombs and my family, friends and community were being slaughtered, you are damn right I’d be out of here with my family to get them to safety. Somewhere they could live with no fear.  This is what I fail to understand about people who lack compassion and empathy towards the crisis.  What would they do in a similar situation? 

I digress. 

There are lots of helicopters overhead.  As night falls, we hear banging.  I’m told to ignore this as its the police.  I’m warned the internet and mobile phone signal in the camp is frequently turned off.   Syrian sim cards don’t work.  So many people are desperate to contact their families to let them know they are safe.

I meet a group of men from Afghanistan, it becomes apparent that they blame the Taliban and ISIS as the reason they have to flee their country rather than ‘our’ meddling in things. I will try to keep this non-political but there is a clue on where I stand on this issue.

A man hands one of our girls a bracelet for giving him a coat. It turns out these are Syrian Prayer Beads. She will treasure that gift from someone who had so little to give, yet wanted to say thank you. 

There is something that feels wrong about heading to a hotel tonight. I think that we have felt every emotion possible today.  We have some food at the hotel and although we should have been winding down, our discussion very much focuses on what we can do to help.  I go to bed feeling guilty that I have a comfy bed and running water to shower in the morning.  It just feels wrong.

Day 2 - Tear Gas and Solidarity

We’re up and out trying to sort out the van in the hotel car park so we can distribute more goods today. The aim is to sleep in the van but we can’t because its just so full.  Its torrential rain which isn’t helping.  The other van and volunteers are leaving today so we need to fit in the items from their van.  They leave to catch their ferry home. Its just three of us left.  On our way into the Jungle and the rain suddenly stops. On our arrival, it becomes apparent that there is something going on.  There appears to be a lot more police on the main road at the other side of the Jungle.

We get our ‘security team’ and distribute some more donated goods.  A young man comes along to ask if we have shoes. I speak to him. He’s 14 years old and from Afghanistan. He’s alone in the Jungle.  How he got here is unclear but the Afghan community appear to be taking good care of him.  We notice so many men wearing small flip flops – one man is wearing a pair of womens Birkenstocks which were at least three sizes too small. We have small mens boots and shoes as we had been told that was what was needed.  It is apparent that we need all shoe and boots sizes.  We simply didn’t have what people needed.  I thought of winter approaching and remember reading that in Auschwitz, shoes were a priority as, without shoes, you died.

People are so grateful for everything we give them. One man is over the moon at Union Jack socks we give him and he wears them on his hands.  We are asked for Scotland flags so that they can put them on their tents.

I meet a very polite man who is 34 and from Afghanistan.  He speaks perfect English with a perfect English accent and is asking for shoes for his friend who is wearing flip flops but doesn’t appear to speak much English and appears quite shy. He tells me he was employed by the British Army in Afghanistan for 8 years as an interpreter.  He shows me photos of him with British soldiers with his uniform and helmet on.  He tells me there was a clause in his contract which allowed his employment to be terminated at any time. Which was exactly what had happened.  He then had to return to his home.  Working for the British Army wouldn’t have made him a popular guy and he had to leave very quickly because it wasn’t safe for him to remain. 

Appalled is the word that describes my feelings about this. And, the worst part is, he actually wants to come to the UK.  He likes ‘us’.  He blames the Taliban for the situation though he does tell me the British Army took £60m from the Afghan economy before leaving. Not sure how factual that is and to be honest, I don’t want to know because this is just awful.  Surely if the British Army employed him, the government should have had a duty of care to him and not dumped him in it?  I’ve subsequently heard this kind of treatment by the UK state isn’t unique.  I console myself with the thought that I’ve never considered myself as British. But actually its no consolation.

After we distribute, we head into camp to check our army marquee.  Its obviously been slept in but there is no one around. We head towards the central ‘main street’. As we near the middle, close to the main road, there is a young man running past us. He looks like his nose and cheek are broken, he has no top on and he has cuts all over his back.  We ask what is going on but there is no clear answer. We see a volunteer so go to speak to her. We’re told there is very high tension between the police and the people who live in the camp today.  Community leaders are trying to sort things out.  There are so many police in riot gear and so many police vans on the flyover above, under the flyover and on the main access road.  Apparently there was some kind of traffic jam outside and people from the camp were trying to climb underneath lorries to get out of this hell that is the Jungle.

We see a group from the camp try to charge the police on the access road and stones being thrown, we start to run back to ‘main street’.  One of us gets ahead but the number of people trying to run away creates a bottle neck.  We hear bangs then smoke.  As we run, we get to the junction at ‘main street’.  Smoke appears just behind us and just in front of us. It becomes clear, we’re being hit by tear gas.  I grab the girl I’m with and crouch down into a corner behind a shelter.  Our eyes are streaming, we can’t see, we’re coughing with this acrid horrible smell and taste which is burning our eyes and mouths.  We feel someone pull at us. 

We’re led to a shelter. Tears are streaming down our faces and we are coughing heavily.   Our rescuers are a group of men from Afghanistan. They stand in front of us and blow cigarette smoke in our eyes. At first I’m unsure what is going on but it helps and I start to be able to see again. But it still hurts. We drink water from the supply outside but this is taken off us by our rescuers and we’re told its unsafe.  Meantime more gas canisters are being fired into the camp.  My friend is crying, I’m swearing enough to make a sailor blush, then apologising to the Afghan men for teaching them words they shouldn’t be taught. 

Anger doesn’t cover how I’m feeling towards the French authorities.  Heavy handed would be an understatement.  They fired into the camp. Not one person who was hit in the area I was in was involved in throwing anything.  It was indiscriminate.  There are children in the camp.  I’m told this is normal – the police fire into the camp whenever there is a disturbance at the main road. 

There is nothing normal about tear gas. Nothing.  

I thank the men who helped us over and over and eventually once we feel better we make our way back to the van. We both have very sore eyes and are still coughing. I feel like I’ve been kicked in the ribs for several days afterwards. 

As we walk back towards the van, several people pat us on the back. One man tells us he was going to go to church and pray for us because we are good people.  He lived in the Jungle, the French authorities treat him like he’s not human and he wants to pray for us because we are good people?  Although I’m not religious, it is touching and the tears that run down my face were not related to the tear gas.  Everyone we passed knows we had been caught by the gas and it is almost like a show of solidarity. I feel more of an affiliation to the people in the camp than I ever will for the authorities who allow this to happen to them. These are human beings.  It shouldn’t matter where they are born or the colour of their skin.  No one deserves to feel the pain and discomfort tear gas causes.  

Afterwards someone finds ten empty gas canisters. I believe three canisters are fired at once. This means at least 12 canisters were fired into the camp.  And they were fired after the crowd who were throwing things dispersed.  I hear that one of the canisters hit one man on the head. I understand this man is seriously injured.  This is life in the Jungle.

Tensions are running very high in the camp and we see a group of men with sticks.  Initially we think that they are heading for the police but then we are told that they are heading for the other side of the camp. The men were Kurdish and someone tells us its relating to a stolen bike which has led to them to go look for the Egyptians who they blame for stealing it. Bikes are highly desirable items in the Jungle. The van is parked in the middle of the camp. On one side, the road is blocked by the police. This leaves one exit – the exit that the men are headed towards with sticks.  We know we have to leave as tensions are so high.  We take our chances with the rival groups in camp and head away from the exit with the police. Fortunately the ‘fight’ between two groups hasn’t escalated and we safely leave the camp.  I guess tensions are high, its pressurised living conditions and that is bound to cause contention between the many nationalities.  Its human nature. 

Along the back road out of camp, there are so many police around.  People are being marched back into camp by the police. We go to a cafe to discuss our next move.  What we witnessed today just feels surreal.  21st Century France.  Did we learn nothing from World War 2 about dehumanising people? We choose not to return to camp tonight and will make a decision on whether we should head home in the morning.