Chapter XXII – Ganges – France

Being back to tranquility is an unpleasant feeling.

I mean, of course, I enjoy resting and having the time to settle down and to breath for a while but knowing what’s going on in the other places I belong to is a knife straight in the heart. I can’t stop thinking about everyone and I can’t help but to keep trying to help them from here.

Then the last couple of weeks has been busy setting up new tools to gather funds and money to help “my friends” still stacked all over the place.

I couldn’t find that many ways …

  • One is to share the experience and to run workshop and conferences about the situation in high school, college and university. It’s something I started doing more and more, knowing that sharing migrants stories and to enable students to help and to connect with them is one of the most important thing.
  • The second is about online fundraising and I then, start setting up a way for people to sustain the work on a monthly basis using the Patreon platform (as you can see on the orange button).FireShot Capture 1 - Exile 2.0 – منفى – Documentary On Migra_ - https___felixbrassier.wordpress.com_
  • The third option might be the less practical but the most efficient: fundraising events.

 

 

This last option is not the easiest one.

 

From planning the evening’ performances, calling the venue, buying the food, cooking the meals till finally running the event, you don’t have that much space … It takes a lot of time, energy and commitment … things that I’d rather keep for the people in need. But, hey … you can’t be everywhere at the same time and you’ve to work things out with what you’ve got.

So I decided to create and to run the first physical fundraising event related to the Exile 2.0 project to specifically help the boys from the Takadoum neighborhood in Rabat, Morocco … -> https://www.gofundme.com/23kkwwk

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Let’s be honest, I’m everything but comfortable with this …

But I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by friends who gave me a hand.

So far, the D-day, I was all but ready, and even if my fellows were confident, I wasn’t.

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I bought the food at the last minute before going to prepare the couscous, which would have been impossible without the help of Nadira and Fabrice who shown up to help just like a miracle.

 

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Steph, Tonio and Miloun, artists poets and musicians, helped me to run the “show” till the documentary screening, singing, playing music and reading poetry to the public while I was trying to fix the Internet connexion …

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Well, I never expected we would get the entire place packed with people and just enough food to serve them.

 

And It was such a great thing to realize that again, here, people were listening and willing to help.

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After an exhausting 5-hours event, we all were happy with the result. And even if you always need more money to carry the work, I can’t stop thinking about the boys from Takadoum, who’ll soon receive a nice gift thanks to all the good people from Ganges.  

Chapitre XXII – Ganges – France

Être de retour au calme est un sentiment étrange et déplaisant.

Je ne dis pas que je n’apprécie pas de me reposer et de souffler un peu mais de savoir ce qui se passe pour mes amis, toujours coince dans les régions où je suis passé : c’est un couteau planté dans le coeur. Ils hantent mes pensées, jours et nuit … et je ne peux pas faire autrement que d’essayer de les aider d’ici.
J’ai donc decié de mettre en place de nouveaux moyens de leur venir en aide.

Honnêtement, je n’ai pas trouvé mille et une solutions.

  • La première est de partager mon expérience et de mener des ateliers et conferences de sensibilisation en collèges, lycées et universités. C’est ce que je fais de plus en plus car, partager l’histoire des migrants, réfugiés et de permettre aux étudiants de parler avec eux ainsi que de devenir acteurs, penseurs de l’aide humanitaire, est la chose la plus importante selon moi …
  • La deuxième solution que j’ai trouve est la mise en place d’un moyen de soutien mensuel en ligne via la platform Patreon (que vous pouvez voir via le bouton orange sur le site) .
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  • Enfin, la troisième option est surement la moins pratique : les soirées de levée de fonds.

 

Et cette dernière méthode n’est pas sans peine.

 

 

 

Entre planifier, organiser les performances de la soirée, appeler les gens, trouver un endroit, acheter la bouffe et la cuisiner pour enfin “faire” la soirée le jour J, il n’y a pas mal de choses à prendre en compte.
Cela prend un temps et une énergie folle, chose que j’aurais de préférence garde pour les personnes sur le terrain. Mais bon, que voulez-vous, on ne peut pas être au four et au moulin et on fait avec ce qu’on a sur place.

Donc, j’ai decié de créer et mener la première soirée officielle de levee de fond pour le projet, pour aider spécifiquement les jeunes du quartier de Takadoum à Rabat au Maroc. -> https://www.gofundme.com/23kkwwk

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Honnêtement, je suis tout sauf à l’aise avec ce genre d’événements.

J’ai cependant la chance d’avoir des amis près à mettre la main à la “pâte.”

Mais le jour J, j’étais loin d’être prêt, et, même si les gars semblaient confiants, j’avais de nombreux doutes.

wp-1492974549564.La nourriture avait ete achetee à la dernière minute avant de préparer le couscous pour le repas du soir (chose qui aurait été impossible sans l’aide de Nadira et Fabrice, qui, après les avoir croisés dans la ville inopinément, sont venues filer un coup de main miracle qui sauva la soirée).

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Steph, Tonio et Miloun, des camarades artistes, poètes et musiciens s’occupèrent de chauffer l’ambiance, récitant des poèmes, jouant de la musique et chantant à tours de bras pendant que de mon cote, je m’arrachait les cheveux pour trouver une connexion internet viable.

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Très franchement, en début de soirée je n’aurais jamais cru que l’on reçoit autant de personnes et que nous ayons juste assez de nourriture pour tout le monde.

Les choses sont surprenantes parfois et la bonté humaine ne cessera jamais de me surprendre, surgissant de nulle part sans mot dire.

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Et même si les cinq heures, les performances, le repas, la diffusion du documentaire et les conversations qui en découlèrent furent épuisants … Même si, toujours plus d’argent serait nécessaire pour continuer les choses comme il se doit …

Je ne peux pas m’empêcher de penser aux jeunes de Takadoum qui, bientôt, auront une jolie surprise de la part des gens de Ganges.

Chapitre I – France

Premier jour.
Un matin doux et clair en Normandie.

 

Tout est comme çà l’a toujours été, rien n’a changé et la ville respire la même routine, mais je vais de l’avant avec le camion “Marcel”, en préparant et en emballant foutitude choses avant de partir.

 

Un rapide adieu aux gens ici, une dernière vérification de la camionnette puis je pars: première destination, Paris, où je rencontrerai d’autres amis et personnes désireuses d’aider.

J’arrivais dans la capitale deux heures plus tard et je rencontrais Marc Pubreuil et Clara Martinez dans leur appartement rue daudeville. Je ne les ai pas vus depuis longtemps (l’époque où nous avions l’habitude de travailler sur nos projets cinématographiques respectifs) et c’est un plaisir de les rencontrer à nouveau pour cette occasion. Après avoir parlé un peu de cinéma, de projets et d’autres choses, je les avons laissés, ai pris ce qu’ils ont donné au projet et suis allés voir Morgane chez elle où j’ai passé la nuit.

Deuxième jour.

J’ai quitté Morgane assez tôt pour continuer vers l’Est en direction de Strasbourg à la frontière entre la France et l’Allemagne.

Dans la ville, après 5 heures de trajet, j’ai retrouvé Audrey Robles, une ancienne bonne amie de l’université qui m’accueilla et me fit une visite rapide de la magnifique ville. Après avoir terminé son travail en tant que graphiste dans une agence locale Kevin Palermo, son petit ami s’est joint à nous et nous sommes sortis pour profiter d’une soirée trop rapide dans la ville.

Troisième jour.

Tôt le matin, Audrey, Kevin et moi avons quitté l’appartement et nous sommes partis à nos tâches respectives.

Le but de la journée était de rejoindre Salzbourg en Autriche.

J’ai traversé l’Allemagne assez rapidement et, après 600 km, j’étais près de la ville. Comme j’étais en contact avec Petra Sumar qui était sur le point de m’emberger à Zagreb, et que le temps jouait toujours en ma faveur, j’ai décidé de ne pas m’arrêter et de continuer à conduire jusqu’à la Croatie pendant la nuit.

Et après avoir traversé l’Autriche et la Slovénie, après avoir passé mes premiers barrages et douanes de la police locale … Je suis finalement arrivé dans les Balkans.

Breil Sur Roya – France

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After spending a week in astalli center at Palermo, recovering and helping with my fellows volunteers over there, I left Sicily and started my journey back to France. thought I did still had to stop at another hotspot I didn’t knew : the French Italian border where I knew the situation between Ventimiglia and the Roya valley was difficult for both the “migrants” and the helpers.

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I heard about the story of many local people being arrested for helping the travellers to cross, to rest etc…  Cedric Herrou,  Felix croft and some others…

I seemed that what I have always found (meaning that everything is make to disable the helpers to help) was actually taking form here as a bunch of laws making the helpers life a real struggle.

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Then I decided to go.

I packed my stuff, collected some donations in Palermo and left for the northern border.

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I arrived three days after and met straight away the people from “Roya citoyenne” a group of local helpers in the valley.

There, I met Cedric who proposed me to come to his place the day after.

His house was built in the countryside between the Italian frontier and Breil Sur Roya,  lost on a mountain alongside the road and virtually inaccessible…  Somehow lost into the wild of the Alpes.

You had to walk up to a little rocky track to access the place.

There, everything was completely different from the world you knew.

For a while,  I knew how to live off the grid thanks to my nomadic way of life, but know I was experiencing a different way of living off the society and our capitalist system…  A sedentary lifestyle which was enabling sustainability  ecology and self sufficiency.

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Cedric was a farmer. The kind of farmer capable of running his own activity by himself without relying on massive agriculture, machines and so on…  His activity was honest,  humble and enough for him.

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Most of the furniture of the place was handmade

The food was coming from the lands,  both vegetables and animals.

The water was pumped from the river and warmed by firewood.

The toilet, the shower, the garbage…  Most the infrastructure here was self sustainable and ecological.

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It made me though about this kind of off the grid community willing to return to the simplicity of a different way of life going back to the nature and the basics of living.

But more than a simple hippy, Cedric was devoting his time and place to help the migrants stuck in the no man’s land of la Roya…

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Around 20 people were living there during this time of the year,  Cedric,  two or three volunteers and ten to fifteen “illegal travellers ” who were staying here waiting to go further safely.

The guys from la Roya explained me that strangely, even being on the French territory,  the migrants here couldn’t ask for asylum yet and have to go at least to Sosfel or Nice to request the asylum…  Then,  in the valley,  these people were still risking being send back to Italy by the police if they’re catch.

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What Cedric was doing was to hide them the time for them to rest and to give them the crucial information about the tracks to follow to get to these cities without being seen and catch by the police.

He used to drive them before but,  since his attestation, couldn’t do this any more.

But even disable of driving the people, he was hosting a lot of them and was also helping the other members of the valley willing to help.

And it’s funny to realize that even with the attestation,  the court and the penalties the people were facing from the state, even being send to the police station randomly during the food distribution at Ventimiglia…  More and more people were rising against the “criminal justice ” which was making sure that you couldn’t help the people.

The anti-migration policy was somehow making people guilty of being human but most of the ones I met were taking this risk, preferring being a human in jail than a free */+$”!

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And I  spent a week with Cedric and the other “delinquants solidaires “, building storage cabin, shelves and places to facilitate the work in the place.

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As he told me,  now they were few people and a lot of needs regarding the organization…  What will it be in summer with hundreds of refugees?

Then I decided to help him by building, hoping these constructions would makes the work easier and more efficient for them.

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And it reminded me Calais and the Woodward work,  cutting wood all day long, hearing the jigsaw and smelling the wood…

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But assembling the all to create construction was kind of new and I really enjoyed seeing the things taking form little by little.

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And the migrants too were enjoying helping me out in the process till the finalisation.

Working with them was a bit like the time I was in lesvos when we were involving the refugees in the daily work…  I’d say that’s one of the most beautiful thing to share with them…  Creating something together.

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And we also went to the daily food distribution happening in Ventimiglia.

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The people from the valley were cooking meals from 8am to 6pm and then,  were going to the city to feed the hundreds of migrants stuck there without anything.

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Every distribution was a gamble…  You never knew if you was about to be arrested or if it’d go OK.

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And it was unbelievable that we had to go like dealers or criminals,  hiding ourselves from the police, just to give out food to people in need.

And of course the police was forbidding us to do so… Saying that it was about “health laws” and prevention…  Yes,  letting people starving is a well better way to solve a health problem…

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We were arrested by lucky enough not to be sent at the commissary.

And we had to leave half of the donations behind.

Sad situation that made me once again   understand the gap between our government and the situation on the field.

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So far I would say that these delinquents from the Roya valley are part of the best persons on this world.

Of course they have some problems,  their organization could works better, they have their own personality and some of them might be seen as lawless…  But their common specificity is to be human more than civilians and it’s maybe why they are seen by the governments as criminals…  Thought,  I’d do the same than them and I’m glad to feels part of this group of criminal.

The only thing sad is to realise humanity start to become illegal…

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 …

Chapter I – France

The first day.
A smooth and bright morning in Normandy.

Everything is like it always have been,  nothing changed and the all city is still living its same routine, and I go back and forth with the truck,  preparing and packing stuff before leaving.

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A quick goodbye to the people here,  a last checking of the van and then I leave:  first destination, Paris where I’ll meet other friends and people willing to help.

I arrived in the busy city 2h later and meet Marc Pubreuil and Clara Martinez at rue see daudeville where they live. I haven’t see them for a long time since we worked together on different movie projects and it’s a pleasure to meet them again for this occasion.  After talking a while about cinema,  projects and other stuff we left them, took what they gave to the project and headed to see morgane at her place where I spent the night.

Second day.
I left morgane ‘ place quite early, to keep heading east on the direction of Strasbourg at the frontier between France and Germany.

Here, after 5 more hours of driving Audrey Robles,  an old good friend from university welcomed me and gave me a quick tour of the magnificent city. After finishing his work as graphic designer in a local agency Kevin Palermo,  her boyfriend joined us and we went out to enjoy a quick evening in the city night place.

Third day.
Early morning again, we Audrey,  Kevin and me, left the flat and went to our respective duties.
The goal of the day was to reach Salzburg in Austria.
I passed through Germany quite quickly and after 600 km I was near the city. Then,  as I was in touch with Petra sumar who was about to host me in Zagreb,  my next stop on the way, I decided not to stop and to keep driving till Croatia during the night.
And after crossing Austria and Slovenia,  after being asked for paper and ID by the local police etc…  I finally arrived to the country.