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The Bristol Cable

Photos: January in the Jungle


As European winter weather finally begins living up to its reputation, volunteers continue to travel to refugee camps on the North French coast.

Photos by Luke Karmali.

The inspiring, testing and never-ending aid efforts in Calais and Dunkirk welcomes new and recurring, temporary and permanent assistants all the time; last week, at the suggestion of my sister – a recurring volunteer – I, and a group of eight friends from Bristol and London made the short trip to join them. I always get seasick. Here’s some photo evidence of my pallid, grim face as I only just manage to keep down half a Pieminister (yeah, on a ferry…for a fiver.) Luckily my fragile constitution only had to hang on to itself for an hour – the trip from Dover to Calais was far quicker than I’d assumed.

Other than how easy and cheap it is to book an Airbnb, a ferry and hop over to France, what struck me was the challenge to my expectations. I had expected there would be little in the way of food and donations now that the sensational footage of migrants jumping onto moving lorries had fallen out of media vogue, and that both volunteers and refugees would be fairly depressed. In fact, those in the camp greeted us all with a sympathetic smile, the main co-ordinator at the warehouse gave a rousing speech every morning about the successes of the aid effort, and volunteers bonded over how many donations end up on the ‘silly’ pile, and how much the dust from long-unworn clothing was making them sneeze.

We spent one day in the warehouse, sorting through the ever-increasing mountain of donations, listening to a range of volunteers’ playlists (Bieber is far more tolerable when followed by metal-infused dubstep and French hip-hop), and one day clearing rubbish and broken tents in the camp. Clothing and food donations are pouring in – money for infrastructure is not. This is the crucial issue now: if you want to help the effort in Calais and make a difference to the lives of those seeking asylum, either get yourself over to France for a few days, or donate what you can to ACTED, who, alongside Médecins Sans Frontières, are struggling to provide for the camps the sanitation, and dignity, that we take for granted.

The French and British governments have contributed only fencing and policing to keep those who are trying to begin a new life penned into what they feel is a prison – as is often the way, it is up to the public to band together and build what is needed for survival, as a community of solidarity.

I was very seasick on the way, expecting a long journey - to my surprise it turned out to be a much shorter trip than anticipated.

The ever-increasing pile of donations still to be sorted.

An amazingly comprehensive array of food, all donated. The kitchen team do an amazing job.

The rota of food going to both volunteers and refugees; everyone gets one hot meal a day.

A rudimentary map of the camp hung up in the warehouse, for volunteers' reference

Clearing a rotting pile of rubbish. The lack of adequate sanitation leads to build up of unwanted food, soiled clothing and faeces throughout the camp.

Volunteers help to build new shelter and clear old, broken tents, and those that are simply being cleared to make way for the new structures. This is a divisive issue.

Football is one of the main past-times in the Jungle.

The motorway to the port of Calais, next to the camp - there are police stationed in several places along it at all times to stop migrants from jumping onto lorries and entering the port.

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