Early morning on the 15th of December, I will leave the camp. I have a lot of anger, as well as a lot of love, to express before then.
It is a sad reality that, as a volunteer, much of the time and energy that could be spent preparing food in the kitchen, working to create and maintain a safe space for women, or providing legal support for unaccompanied minors, is instead spent battling with political decisions of other organisations, local politicians, or the state.
A couple of weeks ago, two volunteers who have been working with unaccompanied minors to push for their right to legal passage to the UK (through the sponsorship of respective family members in the UK, under the Dublin III regulation), were called into the office of the City Hall. The two were accused of having been part of an incident in which neither of them had been directly involved, and in which the charges were completely fabricated. At the end of the meeting, they were told that there was no problem.
Despite this, Afeji and security officers have banned the two from entering camp. Despite the City Hall saying that there was no problem, they have refused to communicate this to the actors who control access to the camp.
In practice, this means that many unaccompanied minors who have a right to go to the UK legally are refused essential legal support which could enable them to do so.
There are approximately 150 unaccompanied minors in the camp. Afeji argues that there are 4.
Some unaccompanied minors do not have shelters. Some sleep in open-air community kitchens, others sleep in the tea tent. When unaccompanied minors have approached Afeji, who are responsible for distributing shelters and for the welfare of minors, they have been met by scorn and laughter.
Yesterday morning, a 17 year old unaccompanied boy who has been sleeping in the tea tent went up, together with me, to an Afeji employee. I informed the Afeji employee that there is a minor who has no shelter, and that another Afeji member had told me to come back the next day in the morning. He told me that minors shouldn’t be sleeping in the camp, “They should be in Paris. Or the forest.”
Noticing the 17 year old, he laughed. This is not a minor, he said, and, laughing, walked deeper into the office, away from the minor who probably slept in the tea tent again last night.
Two alternative endings:
As I was leaving the camp along the highway, a man looked at me, confused, and said, ”I’m new. This is camp?”
“Yes,” I said.
I thought, You must have been through such much already. I thought, You must have so much more to go through. I thought, I’m so sorry.
Yet, everything changes. A friend who was severely threatened in Calais, and who has been at great risk in La Linière because of his ethnicity, has been trying to get to the UK for a long time. Last night, he sent me these messages: