There are about eight hundred undocumented Migrants in Calais in Northern France. Calais is about 21 miles from Dover in the UK. There are regular ferry crossings. The journey is about an hour an a half and at the moment, thanks to an agreement between the Daily Mail and P & O Ferries it’s possible, if you are from the right Country, to get a day return for one pound sterling.
The Migrant situation in Calais has never been solved. The Migrants live here and there, tents cities abound, and they are cared for as best as they can be by several French charities. The Migrants, from Iraq, Syria, Morocco, Egypt, Eritrea, Sudan, Libya, Pakistan, all over, exist in a haze of unease, fear, depression and hopelessness. Yet again, and only last week, another court order was announced granting the Authorities ‘emergency’ permission to disband the camps-once more. Last time they did it was only a few weeks ago. You may well have seen it on the BBC news.
The Migrants have nowhere to go.
A hunger strike continues in a tent in the centre of this one squat of several. People are gradually being taken to hospital, and a pair of bathroom scales sits in between human beings wrapped in blankets, with eyes closed.
A strong looking 29 year old man from Pakistan tells me his story. Unable to continue paying for his studies in the UK he was ordered to pay the outstanding two thousand pounds. With provision to work only twenty hours a week on his visa, outside of study hours, he was unable to raise the cash. He was deported and now dodges between Italy and France. He hasn’t set foot inside a house for months. He is homeless, very depressed, highly intelligent, and is pleading for documentation, a visa, in France, to be able to start living again. “I don’t want any benefits”, he said, “just regularization, the ability to work, to earn, to make a life for myself”.
But the French Authorities are unable to find a solution to make this happen. Granted, it’s not easy.
I told this ‘strong’ man about my litter picking idea. He did smile. It is possible. It could be done.
I don’t like to think about what might happen to these people in a few days time. They are desperate. The French Authorities will not waver, and the police who come to evict them are armed, extremely frightening to look at, and are not armed with a solution-only protection, and weapons.
May God look after you All dear people.
So I walked the Calais beach, picked up this amount of litter from a beach that is clean and cleaned daily, and wonder just how many people I could employ to seriously seriously clean a monumental collection of beaches either side of the English Channel/La Manche. I envisage employing the Migrant population on the French side of the channel. That’s if they want the work.
So I said my goodbyes to Calais again, took my cheap and easy trip back to Dover, jumped in my car and drove up the motorway, the M20, until I saw an HGV lorry pulled up on the hard shoulder, and a very small bundle of blackness rushing up the embankment. He was too small. This couldn’t be so. The HGV pulled out. I pulled in.
I approached the young bundle, ragamuffingly clothed. He was sat on the crash barrier. I smiled, said hi, shook his hand and asked his name. He told me. He was from Eritrea. And when he got in my car he couldn’t even see over the dashboard.
In short, I took him to the nearest police station. This is what he wanted.
He had stowed away on the lorry, (from the Calais Dover crossing) either on top of it, inside it or underneath it. Our shared language knowledge could not afford an explanation. But we talked about where he had come from and his journey so far. Eritrea, Sudan, Libya, Italy and then France, and now England.
But where was his Family? How had he travelled? When had he left?
He said he was fourteen. I reckon he was eleven. He might have even been ten.
I bought him some food, gave him my bag, £2.50 in English coins, and told him yes, this is England. He wasn’t sure. He praised God, beemed a smile, and realized he had done what so many of his compatriots also dreamed of. He had arrived in England.
But I have a dreadful feeling that after having settled things with the police, that this dear little scruffy schoolboy aged bundle of joy…is going to be sent back to France.
It’s not right. None of this is right. To make it right, we have to recreate the way we wish to live on this Planet, eke out a vision that is fair for all. If that’s what we want.
The little bundle of joy scratched around in his pocket and gave me his two euros and thirty cents in exchange for my two pound fifty. He didn’t think he’d need it anymore. I think he might though. I’d better go and find him and give it him back.
I will post a message Simon…right now I cannot think what to say,,,what an uncaring world that allows this situation to happen…a small child brings reality home to us even more ….M-A x
Don’t think too hard on it Ma. The World will get better. Life is too amazing for it not too!
Another deeply moving piece, Simon. And a brilliant picture! I’ve just pinned it.
How extraordinary that you happened to spot the stowaway – whatever else he has been (or will go) through, his luck was in that time. Bless you for your kind heart.