The Syrian Migrant population in the port of Calais, France is around eighty persons at the moment and they started their ‘rolling’ demonstration on the 6th November 2014.
They started with 80 people but numbers dwindled rapidly. It is not in their culture to have to behave like this and as their leader says, “Many of the younger ones don’t understand the need to persevere. If you have an idea, you have to stick with it. If you keep hold of that idea there is always the possibility for it to happen”. And here is a man who always wanted to go to University but had a large family and had to work to look after them. It wasn’t until he was 45 years old that he managed to get a place to study Engineering. Having graduated in that subject he then found another University and took a degree in Media.
And he has another idea. To be free. To be successful. To be independent.
So for eleven days he and his compatriots stand on the roadside holding up various statements written in English. As another person arrives, so another banner is lifted.
They stand at the entrance to ‘Old Salam’. If you catch the eleven o’clock morning ferry from Dover you can easily be present for their 2pm-5pm demonstration. It’s a fifteen minute walk from when you get off the boat. The return ferry ticket can cost as little as £13 and you don’t even have to take any euros over…unless you want to buy a coffee or have something to eat, and for that you’ll have to walk further into town, and pass the Syrian demonstration, like so many tourists do.
After one hour their number is seventeen. The pressure group “No Borders” turn up to support them, and bring hot potato soup too. Generously, it is offered all round. Police vans circle discreetly, but obviously. They ask questions. Expensive motor homes pass by, a Taiwanese (looking) man on a touring bike passes by, cycling with flip flops. A large rusty yellow crane stands behind the seventeen, a large green fence separates them from it. The fence encircles a compound. This was the old ‘squat’ used by three or four hundred of the upwards of fifteen hundred Migrants that ‘live’ in Calais now, all with the ‘idea’ of reaching the UK, illegally.
At 3pm there are eight banners being held. The banners are made from what looks like bed sheeting. They are shades of blue, one grey and one white. The white one says, “We Want The Right To Enter The UK Legally”.
The others say, “UK help. We are only 80 persons”. “Don’t shut your eyes. Syrians suffer in Calais”. “Why must we suffer for Asylum?”. “Why does the UK force us to pay smugglers?”. “We have war in our country remember”. “UK don’t close your door in Syrian face”. “Why does the UK close its doors on Syria?”
Speaking to them, they are not hopeful, and one wonders how long the intended ‘rolling’ demonstration will go on.
A friend of mine from the UK wants to support the people over here and I have a question for them. Can we bring them gloves, more warm clothing? Can we bring you extra food, bedding…anything? What do you need to make your life easier? We can bring it to you.
“Take our message away with you. We want nothing else from you. We thank you for your offers, but please, just take our message”.