Chapter XIII – Calais – France

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Being in Calais is weird.
It’s like being in your country surrounded by foreigners.
All around, British people gathering here to help.
Just a few french ..

Why ? Why do the British feels more incline to help than the French ?
Why aren’t we helping in our own country ?
I’d say that they are feeling as ashamed than we are regarding the way our respective government is behaving, the only thing is that they’re here … in France.
Where are the French ?

 

And it’s weird talking English all day long even though you get use to it… it feels like strange to see more British cars than French ones …
I’d say that the frontier is so close to England that they’re all making the ride to Calais but the trip is as long as coming from Paris to here so …
Really I couldn’t tell …

 

And it’s maybe coming from this British gypsy way of life as you can experience in the “Auberge Des Migrants” area, which is kind of a mix between humanitarian space and gypsy area for travellers of all kind.
Here, I mostly met people like me, living remotely in their cars or van, dealing with nomadic life everyday but helping 10hours a day though …
Here in the place, we’re about 40 people living in our caravans, so we’re like a tiny community living 24/24h per day on the field.
Many other volunteers were going back to their place every evening but not us … we’re here all time and that was maybe bringing us something more …
Maybe it was different than simply going to work everyday as you could feels part of something bigger … one kind of family.

And the days are passing as quick as usual, it’s already the fourth day that I’m spending here and the work is endless like always …

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Honestly I’m not fancy going to the jungle everyday if there’s nothing to do over there … I spent some times around though, going to the jungle books area which is the teaching area and the library of the camp … A lot of volunteers were going there trying to teach english or french to the migrants, unfortunately they’re passing by so quickly that no long educational projects could grow up there. Having people willing to teach and interact with migrants was good (and I’m sure there might be longer term volunteers who may comes everyday to teach) but the turn over was too disturbing and you could not expect to be given class for a long period of time.

Beside of it the “Auberge Des Migrants” was doing everything : cooking, sorting clothes, hygienic products, fixing tents to give to the migrants, providing all the gears needed in the jungle, building and fixing shelters for the people (even though it was not allowed anymore due to the CRS who where stopping the convoys)… everyday.
The place was a bit like a factory where 200 people where working from 7am to 6pm …

The ”Auberge Des Migrants” was also providing wood to all of the migrants trapped in the camp through the “Woodyard” organisation which was taking care about the entire process.

Basically the organisation was receiving tons of wood everyday, coming from supermarkets, dumps or other places … we had to chop the wood into little pieces.

After we had to use the machines to chop pieces that could fit into bags and soba … after chopping all the wood, we had to put all of the little pieces into bags to put them in our truck and then to distribute them in the camp.

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The distribution is something tiring.
Driving through the streets of the jungle, finding the right place to park the truck in the area we were supposed to distribute (the organisation was deserving one specific area everyday).
Once we got there, we were starting the distribution.

One after one, we were distributing piece of wood to all the people regarding the number  written on their ticket (which meant the number of people in a shelter) .
Daily the Woodyard was providing wood for roughly 2000 people, daily 3 or 4 trucks were going to the jungle to distribute it to the people.
The wood in the jungle is something hugely needed for everyone : to warm up, to cook, to light the place … with the capability to get fire, the migrants were more free to live their own way.

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And I spent the entire week being back and forth between the different section of the “Auberge Des Migrants” warehouse … There, you had always something to do …

And even though we were receiving lot of donations evreyday, even though it was somehow incredible to see this amount of food, clothes, tents, woods or whatever else … Even if the volunteers were working tirelessly every single day … It was far not enough to cover the needs of all the people of the camp …

We would supply goods and support 2000 to 3000 migrants per day … as far as we knew, they were 10000 …

And even if the situation was not as bad as I first expected, we were unsure about the future, the evictions rumors … the thousands of CRS posted all over the place, patrolling … the atmosphere wasn’t peaceful and everyone was under pressure … the migrants, the volunteers, the cops …

I can’t tell what’s going to happen when the eviction will happen, I can’t tell where will be send these people and how the organisation will change the work … I hope it will be for the best even if it doesn’t look like …

Chapter XII – Paris- France

 

It’s been a long time since I last been on the field, helping, documenting and doing what I used to for the last year or so … After being back in Lesvos this last summer, I had to work on the documentary editing.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to work on creative film project and that’s my first passion, though I couldn’t help but to feel upset by all what I knew was happening around me back in the places I’ve been …

So after finishing the first chapter of the documentary project I left straight to Paris where I’ve been told that help was needed.

Like I did last year, I filled Marcel with donation coming from local people and friends and I drove to Paris.

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There, I realized how bad was the situation of the country. As I heard from abroad, France wasn’t that a “welcoming place” and my first encounter was with the police who was  proceeding a raid in the street to clean the space.

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Indeed, I couldn’t tell how many migrant were there … 500 … 600 … 700 … It was insane …

 

All of them sleeping in the “Avenue de Flandre”, near the subway station of “Jaures”.

Most of them didn’t get anything : having a tent to sleep on it was a fancy that only the families could get, the rest of the people were just given a blanket … The life condition were insane.

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I first though that I was about to meet organization like “red cross” or “secours populaire”, but again I was wrong and the people I met there were just local people coming to help, exhausted, coping with the indignation to be the only ones to take care of these migrants.

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So the work in Paris was like doing everything by ourselves, collecting the bread early morning, asking the bakeries of the city to give out their unsold stock, preparing the breakfast for the hundreds of people starving, distributing in the street, in the park … asking for people to keep calm and “PLEASE” not to fight …

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After the breakfast, the lunch and the dinner …

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We would run all over the place trying to get clothes, hygienic products or anything else they would need …

The local people from Paris would give them information about the administrative procedures the migrants had to follow not to be sent back … they would give them direction to the hospital, to the hostels etc ….

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To be clear, 20-30 people were taking about 700 migrants everyday, doing the work the government and the organizations were supposed to do … there were exhausted and blank, as they could not understand why they were left alone trying to help these people.

There, I could feel the anger and the hostility coming from the country.

It was as if “You’re not welcome here, get out of my country” was written everywhere on the walls.

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Still, it wasn’t enough to discourage them and everyday, they’re on the streets … everyday, the hard work was the same … and they would return to their flat, to their families every evening … wondering why ?

Why this was happening in one of the most powerful country of the world ?

I guess I’ve got the answer …