POLITICS: Reality in Calais: Are there limits to charity?


The Calais ‘Jungle’ refugee camp faces a number of organisational issues. Now, charity sectors and volunteers seem overwhelmed and unable to deal with this ever-deepening crisis.

Today, over 5000 refugees have fled to France and found refuge in the ‘Jungle’, one of the biggest camps in Western Europe. A seven-mile drive from central Calais, the refugees themselves have built this camp, with national segments, school facilities, kitchens, and even barber’s shops.


However, the need for organised distribution of donations, which lead to building the camp, becomes evident in Église Notre-Dame, Calais’ central church, in which all donations are dropped. As volunteers have been willing to help, donations have been pouring in at greater and greater rates, leading to a fully crammed, overwhelmed, and understaffed church. Charities seem at crisis, pressured from all sides to solve a problem which wouldn’t exist if states were providing properly resourced operations. The need for funding is visible everywhere. Meals in Calais are served once a day and donations handed out once a week. Here’s how it works according to one of the residents in the camp:

Hamdi: “Once a week, a lady comes by with a ticket. If you are lucky enough to see her, you can get one ticket from her.”

This ticket is then exchangeable for a single item from the church- a pair of shoes, a jumper, a teddy bear – whichever they choose; they may then take back to the camp.

“If we don’t see the lady, we have to spend another week or more waiting”.

Even if refugees are lucky enough to be handed one of these tickets, the seven-mile walk to Église Notre-Dame and back, as well as the impossibly long queues on arrival mean that often, refugees are told to ‘come back next week and try again’. In essence, as a result, many people in the camps go without necessary items like solid shoes or warm jumpers until they’re able to retrieve the donations from the ironically overflowing church [below].


In a recent interview with ITV news, Cameron claimed that refugees trying to cross the border into the UK had increased because ‘you have got a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean, seeking a better life, wanting to come to Britain because Britain has got jobs, it’s got a growing economy, it’s an incredible place to live.’  He added: “But we need to protect our borders by working hand in glove with our neighbours, the French, and that is exactly what we are doing.”

ITV Tonight, a member of the mainstream media outlets, also seeks to create an illusion that Britain is faced with a ‘swarm’ of people as one of their recent Tweets reads: “Tonight: Breaking into Britain ITV 8PM”


This language tries its best to insinuate all refugees are inherently criminals, and with mainstream media in clear support of racist Conservative ideology, the organised delusion that Britain takes in hundreds of thousands of refugees is created. However, statistics show a different reality. According to the British Red Cross, Britain’s entire population is made up of over 64 million people, with only 0.19% of them being refugees. If Britain was to take in every single resident in the camp at Calais, the total of refugees in the UK would still be under 1% overall.

Nobody flees wars, spends three months on a boat, risks their lives and their family’s lives on a daily-basis to live off benefits in Britain. These inspiring people aspire to the same standards of life as anyone else. The real criminals are the politicians refusing help ordinary people in need.

By Iara Kaiser

The Verse Staff

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