For my friend in Calais
Imagine this tent is your home .. though if on their nightly patrols the authorities find it they will slash it or burn it and destroy any of your belongings in it. You have an escape plan for when they come – over the fence is a motorway the police will not follow you on as its too dangerous for them (your logic for taking this route – three motorway lanes so a 30% chance a car will hit you, stay where you are and a 100% chance of the police handing out a pepper sprayed beating).
You must be pretty down and out to have ended here yet the journey from your home has already cost you the best part of €20,000 to the people traffickers so you must have been a man of means at one point.
This is the beginning of the story of a 29 year old man I spent time with yesterday in Calais – an intelligent, humorous and determined man whose goal is to return to the UK. He lived in Cardiff for nine years before a police check found him without the necessary papers and sent him back to Afghanistan.
Why leave his home and family near the Afghan capital of Kabul? He explains “I never knew whether to grow my beard or not .. If I shave then I get picked up by the Taliban for not being a good muslim, they will beat me and probably kill me. If I grow my beard, the US soldiers will pick me up as I am a terrorist – they will shoot me”.
Every night this man will try to find a lorry headed for the UK to smuggle himself on to, but without money the main risk is not the authorities or the baseball bats of the lorry drivers but the people traffickers; if they catch you trying to cross without paying them, the first time you get a beating as a warning, the second time will be your last.
Why the UK? Firstly, he built a life there, working hard amongst friends and family but secondly in his own words “The British and US troops turned my home land into a war zone fighting over the mining of oll, lithium and gold so I am not safe to walk the streets – I look to hurt no one but want to be somewhere I am safe and not living in fear.”
The CRS (the French riot police) try to ensure no migrant in Calais feels safe since they broke up The Jungle whilst the British government continue to renege on the Dubs agreement to take 3,000 migrant refugees (currently less than 500 have been accepted) and instead plough millions into increasing patrols and security in Calais – last month a further £45million was given to the French for fencing and lighting improvements around the port.
Donations and volunteer help through organisations like Care4Calais can help the refugees but a solution can surely only be found in the offices of Westminster.
For my friend in Calais, living rough amongst 100 or so fellow Afghans, his eyes speak of fear and desperation yet he will continue to proudly plot his course and try to find his brighter tomorrow.
The help please donate now at https://goo.gl/jmkx7A