Meet Rashad, former IT student turned refugee
I met Rashad beside the hand-washing station during our food distribution and we got talking. I asked him what it’s like living in Calais.
“To understand our life here in Calais, you can look at it from a different perspective. For example, when people want to have a holiday, sometimes they take a tent and they take their children to go camping and spend some time with their family.
“Living as a refugee in a tent with the food given to us by organisations, that’s different. That’s hard. We face many challenges. I could write a book about it!
“Police come every two days to show people it’s temporary here. It has a psychological effect on many people. They hate this, truly. Not even having two metres of earth to sleep on, and when to wake up is not up to us. The police control even this part of our lives.*
“But with the help of charities we are able to get everything that we need: water, food, tents. These things are very important and we are thankful for this.”
Rashad arrived two months ago, but lives among people who have been here for up to two years. He is originally from Kabul, Afghanistan, where he tells me of growing up surrounded by “wars and destruction for so many years”.
“In Kabul I studied information technology at the university there when the situation was good. Back then we were able to go to school or university, but later on, everything changed. People are now sleeping on the borders of other countries to try and escape. We are escaping danger and now it is just about survival.”
Rashad is not here with anyone from home, but he has made friends among the other refugees. I ask about his family.
“My whole family is already in the UK living in Plymouth. My parents and siblings, they all live together. We made a family reunion application, but that was refused the first time. We then made another one and there was a hearing about two weeks ago. That was also negative.
“I just want to find somewhere to be safe so I can take back some time for myself. Everything has changed now.”
* We find it abhorrent that these forced evictions and clearances are continuing during the French lockdown. There is a travel ban; the refugees cannot leave if they want to. What could be more pointless and cruel than to evict someone who cannot leave?
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