Paris Volunteers in Danger

Guest blog by Danika Jurisic from Bosnia working as an independent volunteer in Paris

Some very good and some very bad things are going on in Paris Camps. 

We had a tough week. Snow, evacuations, chaos - all of it was here before but it doesn't make things any easier. 

I got a lot of supports from many sides: 

- Care4Calais sent a van with hundreds of duvets, we had enough material and donations to visit several sites. 
- We bought 840 pairs of socks for such a ridiculously small amount of money, in shops at Porte d Aubervilliers , sponsored by CatchASmile and Fabienne Dimmer.
- Manchester's team and Julie Ward sent us boxes of warm coats and winter clothes. And they worked very hard to collect them and ship them over. Sheilagh Guthrie bright them over from Care4Calais.
- We took gloves and hats from Heather Young.

And we were ready to do distribution , on Friday night 25.01.2019. 

There were two groups on the ground , on the camp Porte de la Chapelle and since we had really large quantities of donations, I felt safe to go on the camp directly and distribute. 

Usually I do smaller, targeted distributions and I take people off the camp discreetly , to give them shoes or tents or blankets and avoid the mess. But this time we had enough of same items and we had a lot of volunteers , so we proceeded. 

And then everything went to shit. 

As I have written before , we have a criminal groups that is manipulating refugees and provoking violence. Fatima , or Fatty and her minion Kussay have been circling camps like predators, pretending to care for refugees. In fact all they do is ruthless exploitation of refugee crisis.

They attacked a female volunteer last winter and they were the ones who were slashing tents.

Fatty and Kussay are extremely aggressive and we got attacked that same night by them. The reasons behind their behaviour are really shady.

Usually they approach a group of volunteers and they intimidate them. They start with a chant "no photos" even if no one is holding a camera or a phone.

They claim control and credit for everyone’s humanitarian actions; and it has been like that for years. They tried to attach themselves to others grassroots distribution and later they lie to refugees that it was them behind the organisation of it. 

Not even Paris volunteers are safe. Houda, Lola, Sarah, and many many others were attacked by this group. Utopia56 [French refugee aid charity] and their volunteers had a lot of problems with them.

Whoever is present on the camp but does distribution beyond control of Fatima and without "paying " a certain fee to her and her gang, is made a target.

They followed us through the camp shouting and screaming, and this is one of the methods that they use a lot. Fatima screams and accuse other volunteers of the most absurd stuff , right in front of the refugees, and that is very stressful situation for everyone. It causes distress, refugees feel unsafe, they question everything. They already sleep in tents, in the mud, waiting for asylum, they had hard life, only getting to Paris was a difficult step.

I had my hands full of bags with sock when Fatty was shouting at us and accusing us of taking photos. I wasn't at that moment, but let me explain the philosophy behind "no photo" chants that they so often produce. 

For Fatima , who spent her time on the camp policing and controlling others, this is an excuse. She tried to pass it as a part of care for refugees but that is so far from truth. Of course no one will support touristic promenade of people who are taking photos like they are visiting ZOO, but there is always a very serious need for spreading the reality of refugee crisis and photography is a very relevant part of it. Not showing what refugee camps are and what are the conditions , not allowing the stories of refugees, told by themselves to reach public, to be heard, is a sick fantasy of megalomaniac person who only wants to be in control. That is why she is pretending to not allowing photos on the camp. What she didn't want is others volunteers who can't be controlled by her.

She profited enormously from all the donations she has ever put hands on and she claimed actions and work of other as her own to justify herself in front of her supporters. But this is not the end of her criminal activity. 

That Friday night, she was plotting with several others from her gang, to attack me, steel my belongings, my phone, my backpack. My Arabic translator told me that , they were talking in Arabic so others could not understand them. 

Fatima tried to hit me when we were ignoring her, but she was stopped by refugees.

Kussay tried to steal my phone but he was also stopped by refugees.

Another women grabbed my backpack and tried to take it away but without success.

And another one grabbed me rather violently and pulled almost to the ground. But I was defended by refugees who were there.

I wasn't robbed or harmed. Not this time. 

Fatima has plotted many attacks on volunteers and others, disobedient refugees who were living on the camp. There are many complaints made in the police , but as usual , police didn't and doesn't care what happens on the camps. Even when refugees are attacked by gangs, there is no way they can make complaint. They will simply be ignored. 

Last summer when I was attacked on camp at Canal St Denis, I did call the police, but they simply ignored me. I think I don't need to underline that attacks were planned by Fatima.

Since Friday I have received many threats from that gang. They said they will put me in hospital and many other things. I also received one apology from association who have distanced themselves from Fatima and Kussay and all of their actions.

I really hate to tell any of this, it has been a trauma and I don't like to add up to grim stories from the camp. But this has been a problem and it will remain unless it is addressed.

Please, before you make a donation, make sure they will not end up in the hands of this gang. Check the asso you work with and if they are connected. Many grassroots asso are just starting and they are unaware of the danger they might encounter on the camp. Spread the word, share, alert others.

I hate to ruin your Sunday morning with this all, but I hope we can make something good out of it. 
Thank you all for the support and help.