Dealing with the Calais food ban
One of the scariest things I’ve noticed about volunteering in Calais this time is here is how badly the refugees want our food packs.
They don’t mind a long walk to the places where we’re giving them out, and they are willing to wait for a long time in the freezing cold to collect them. Seeing people that hungry is not good.
To a large extent, the problem is down to action taken by the authorities. There’s been a “food ban” in Calais for more than a year now. The ban originally made it illegal to give people food in certain parts of the town, but over time the area covered has grown. It’s now so big that it’s getting harder and harder to get food to refugees who need it.
I’ve never understood how this food ban could be possible. Food is a basic human right, so how can it be lawful to ban people from giving it to each other? But exist it does, and various charities in Calais have been fined for breaking it.
What makes it really unpleasant is that if you do break it, frightening french riot police in full body armour come and tell you to move on. You’d have to be crazy to argue with them, and even if you did, you certainly wouldn’t win.
Because of all this, we’ve been looking for new ways to reach people. We’ve found new places to meet, and we’re varying the times we go out. But I’m worried. When we do our tea and coffee stall, everyone wants the biscuits. This is not a good sign.
We’ve also pped the amounts of tuna and sugar we’re putting in the packs to add nutrition and calories to keep people warm. It’s cold, and they’re cooking outside on open fires made from wood gathered from the trees. It’s horrible; the woodsmoke gets in your eyes, and everyone’s clothes and hair smell of it.
If I ever think my life is hard or difficult, or that small things are inconvenient, I’ll remember my friends here who are continually cold, tired and now hungry. Refugees are the most resilient people I have ever met; ee would be lucky to welcome them to the U.K.
Food packs are one of the most expensive things we provide, as the need is ongoing. You can buy a good pack for a refugee at Care4Calais.org/donate