A message of hope on the Channel ferry
Yesterday a wonderful, and hope-giving thing happened to me.
I was on my way home to the UK after volunteering in Calais for the first time. Out on the distributions I’d been filled with admiration for the uncrushable spirit and warmth of the refugees I met, but also at time despair for what they have to go through.
One day when we were giving out food packages, I met a young Sudanese guy called Adil. In almost perfect English, summed it up for me. “I’m not angry,” he said. “But I want to ask why? Why do we have to camp here, where it’s so wet? Why do the police treat us so cold, when we’ve done nothing? I don’t understand why they want to make people’s lives so bad?”
Of course no-one could answer this, because the way we treat refugees doesn’t make any sense. I thought about it on the ferry home. Looking into the dark, cold, choppy sea, I thought about being on the water in a little boat with my own children. What hell would I have had to run away from to make me do that?
The UK is supposed to be “civilised.” But how can it be civilised to force refugee families to risk their lives crossing the channel while an accident of birth means I travel safely?
I must have been the only foot passenger on the ferry because at Dover, I was on my own waiting to shown off by a man from the ferry staff. He was a big, non-nonsense, grizzled-looking guy and I must admit that when he asked what I’d been doing in France, and I told him, I was anticipating a moan about refugees.
“Oh yeah?” he said. “We see ‘em all being brought in. If you look down the dock when you get off, you can see where they put all the bloody dinghies.”
“Here we go,” I thought.
“Poor buggers,” he said.
“What it’d take to get me in a boat and try that, I don’t know. People have a lot of say about it, but when you see ‘em, the state of ‘em, getting off them boats, f*** me. I don’t know what the answer is but…” he shook his head, and our big safe ship bumped into the dock.
As he showed me off, I shook his hand, which must have seemed quite weird I suppose.
This might sound like a made-up story, but it isn’t.
It made me realise that when decent people see the reality of refugees lives, they respond with empathy. Dover didn’t seem quite so dark and cold after that. Thank you, bloke on the ferry.