WATCH: What’s it like being in Calais during Covid-19?
It’s not easy to describe a ‘typical’ day on the front line in Calais now. It’s so far removed from what it used to be. For a start we now go on distribution dressed like storm troopers in a full body suit, two face masks and two pairs of gloves, all of which need to be disposed of or washed at high temperatures every night, along with every piece of kit we use.
Whereas we used to provide services to the refugees such as haircutting, hot drinks, games etc. all that has stopped. Instead of working to humanise and befriend them now we need them to keep their distance and not physically touch us. The opposite of normal human behaviour. This is particularly hard at Dunkirk where many of the children recognise the volunteers and run toward them to greet and play. It feels harsh and hurtful to gesture them back.
We have to make the refugees stand in long lines with two metres distances between them. No small feat when there are hundreds of hungry people and only a few of us. We can only apologise when they tell us there have been no clothes or shoes distributed for weeks and they feel dirty and itchy. It is taking every hour of hard work we have just to get food out to so many people.
My whole life feels surreal now and the only thing that makes it bearable is the amazing team of people I am sharing it with. Every one has made an incredibly difficult decision to be here right now doing this crazy stuff. Each one has their own reasons but they bind us together as a close knit team, relying on each other for our very health and taking shared responsibility for getting food to many people.
Now we know the virus is in the camps we urgently need the authorities to take action faster. The refugees can’t use the mitigation methods the rest of society are practising, like social distancing and hand washing. Without these, the spread if the disease could be exponential and half the population infected within weeks.
Please support our urgent campaign to see refugees through this terrible time.