From a distance

From a distance, the situation for refugees at Calais Jungle can be read everywhichway.

Eighty refugees were fast-tracked into the University in Lille. Families boarded buses for Reception Centers in the south of France. On the train, a refugee translator in stylish clothes whizzes off to Paris for a meeting with Amnesty International. In the music tent, young Sudanese men sing and serve sweet smoky chai to western friends.

But only thirty-nine of 378 unaccompanied youth eligible for asylum in the UK have been reunited with family members there. Over 1000 unaccompanied youth remain in the camp. They are blocked by riot police from entering Jungle Books Youth Center, a place of refuge for these boys fat from home. At night, some cut themselves from anxiety. Where will they will go when demolition begins? Rumors place the date at October 24.

Volunteers and charities continue to run the camp – its schools,  distribution points, lunch lines, legal centers, wifi bus, tea truck, art space, and youth centers. Yet hundreds of bigoted online comments assume that France provides these services and goods. France provides water troughs, garbage removal, portapotties, and thirty showers for close to 10,000 refugees.

In California, I sit in my sun-drenched yard, orange with ripe persimmons, while 10,000 refugees wait in tents moldy from rain. They want many things, but at the top of their lists is the freedom to charge their phones over a cup of tea. They do this on power strips provided free by restaurants, powered by generators. But police have, for the final time, closed all the shops and restaurants in Calais Jungle. One of them is Jungle Books Youth Center that provides free food to youth.

By the privilege of birth place, this persimmon will make my breakfast bowl and not theirs.


Author: earefuge

I direct EAR (Expressive Arts Refuge) whose work focuses on refugee youth in France and Greece. At home in Oakland, California, I direct World Harmony Chorus and World Harmony Ensemble.

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