Film length: 7:06
Since the late 90s refugees have been in Calais hoping to reach safety and stability in the UK. Many have relatives across the channel and the port which sees hundreds of lorries passing through each day offers a chance to slip through draconian border controls.
In 2002 the UK government pressured the French into closing the Red Cross medical facility nearby in Sangatte (very humane) and since then the conditions for the refugees have massively deteriorated. Each year there are many deaths from illness and exposure alongside the countless people killed and maimed trying to get into lorries or crossing the high speed railway lines.
The Europe wide refugee crisis has seen the numbers in the Calais ‘Jungle’ Camp (renamed ‘Freetown’ by its occupants) swell fivefold to over 6,000 in recent months with many local NGOs fearing the worst this coming winter. The vulnerability of those in the camp was recently demonstrated when a fire started by a candle destroyed several dwellings. Luckily no one was hurt. To add to their problems the present site of the camp (where the refugees were forcibly moved to by the French authorities) has now been found to contain large amounts of highly toxic asbestos. On top of this the refugees regularly complain of mistreatment by local police with numerous accounts of beatings & being pepper sprayed.
However there has recently been a massive increase in practical solidarity missions aimed at helping the refugees survive alongside the work of some activists whom have been helping for over a decade.
Reel News joined two such actions in August/September. The first was a 100 strong Critical Mass bike ride to the camp via Dover to donate much needed transport to the refugees. The event also attracted positive media coverage to the plight of the refugees and those whom are defying the government line on helping them. Reports: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11)
The following week we joined a convoy of vehicles organised by Stand Up To Racism whom have been collecting thousands of pounds from Trade Union Branches to support NGOs in the frontline in Calais.
There are also plans to afoot to build a sustainable bread making operation at the camp alongside numerous other projects. Below are some useful links for anyone wishing to get involved.