Last week finally saw toilet and showering facilities installed at the main site outside the emergency centre in Grande-Synthe. This victory came as a result of months of hard work from La Cimade, L'Auberge des Migrants, PSM and several other grassroots organisations and individuals.
I had the pleasure of meeting the very wonderful Chrissie and Gerard of SOS Chai who are busy in the Caen/Ouistreham area of northern France. Here they’re working with locals and international volunteers to bring good food, a warm welcome, respect and a lot of care and compassion to the few hundred mostly African kids surviving homeless in the area as unsupported asylum seekers.
Two-year old Mawda, whose family we closely supported, shot by Belgian police during a car chase in the night of 16-17 May last year. We think of her parents and brother, who were treated deplorably by Belgian authorities in the aftermath of Mawda’s death. With the investigation not advancing, they are forced to continue, tirelessly, to demand justice.
The recent Channel boat crossings have created a media storm and, while this may have been an opportunity to emphasise the deep rooted issues in hostile European immigration policies and increasingly violent and impenetrable borders, the perspective of those most entrapped by the lack of legal routes has been omitted. These are a few snippets of conversations we’ve had with displaced families living in both Calais and Dunkirk, who have resorted to these desperate measures.
The mood shifts of the boys are very real as the warmer weather disappears and the colder weather moves in. It’s harder to find time to really chat and find out what life is like as they are so cold and so hungry, but I also have found myself thinking that very real fears of how they will cope with sickness and surviving the cold and sleeping in ditches are more tangible.
Three nights ago Alex had his birthday in a secret, tucked-away corner of a Parisian city park.
He is young in his round face. Has an easy sticky-out-toothy smile that reaches his soft eyes. He has one of those silly annoying hairstyles that is half flicky emo fringe and half super stylish. He's kinda goofy, charming and desperately talkative. His English is perfect but with unmistakable Afghan mannerisms.
We understand only too well how compelling it is to a donor to spend £10 on a packet of nappies for a vulnerable baby and mum. And how the opposite is true of a £10 donation towards a £1000 monthly van hire, or towards insurance, or worse still, tax! Hearts and minds grabbers they’re definitely not! But vehicles are often the one thing volunteer groups can’t live without.