We went over to Calais on Saturday with a car completely full of donated items and £3500 in monetary donations. We met up with about 9 other cars in Folkestone as part of the Stand Up To Racism delegation, along with a team from Sky News who would be following us throughout the day.
We all boarded the Eurotunnel and drove together to a Catholic Church in Calais town centre that was being used as a storage hall for donations through the Secours Catholique (Migrants) charity. Here they were very low on space due to an influx in donations from Britain, but took the most valuable items such as tents, mattresses and roll mats, sleeping bags, blankets, mens trainers, boots and socks, and waterproof coats and trousers. We gave a cheque for half of the money we raised, £1750, to this group who hoped to be able to buy a van to help transport the donations.
From here the convoy left for the camp. We talked with the people there who were mostly from Africa. Many people that I spoke to including a number of young boys said they wanted to come to Britain because they had family members, mothers, brothers , fathers, who were already living in London or Manchester who they needed to reach. One young boy I spoke to from Chad had been waiting in the camp for 9 months, trying to reach his mother who was living in Queens Park, London.
From here we met a woman called Maya from the charity L'Auberge des Migrants who was based in the camp and had some storage space in metal containers just around the corner. She took us here and we arranged our remaining stuff into one of these containers to be distributed through the camp. We gave the remaining £1750 as a cheque to this group, L'Auberge des Migrants.
Maya explained to us how difficult it was to distribute the donations with so little storage space and organisation. When people turn up unannounced and simply dump donations at the camp, it causes violence as there is no organised way of making sure people get their fair share. She asked us to please spread the word that if people are coming to deliver aid they must warn an organisation with plenty of notice so that the best way of dealing with the donations can be arranged.
Overall, the donations were clearly desperately needed, and the influx in help from Britain in other places is making a difference to the people there. But, the situation is utterly disgraceful and simply sending aid offers no solution for people living in such an unsustainable position. The people we met were fleeing from war, and violent oppression, and urgently need a new safe home. The best thing we can do for the people in this camp is to keep up the pressure on our government to let them into Britain immediately. The people we met at the camp were really encouraged to hear of the protests taking place this Saturday, 12th September, all over Britain, to say 'Let them In' and that refugees are welcome in Britain, I really hope to see you all there!