The reality on the ground.
Today, while the Home Office issues guidance that will stop many unaccompanied minors from being brought to Britain, one of our volunteers reflects on the reality that occurs on the ground:
“I got told once that its unethical or unprofessional to offer a bed to a minor refugee who you found sleeping on the street patrolled by militant armed police in the middle of November. Exposed to racial hatred, unfair police treatment and bitter freezing nights in November, where only staring at the supermoon can make you forget where you ARE. Sadly the overbearing winter clouds of northern France do not even allow this escapism. It made me wonder how things are right and wrong in different places. Here in France where it seems many people can simply stand aside and look at injustice, we let it happen and only later complain how unfair and dehumanizing the whole situation is. Yes, I am talking about the refugee crisis; so often discussed but so rarely acted upon.
For me its not just the refugee crisis anymore, its the crisis of humanity, where laws are more important than human beings, where we follow the guidelines when the same guidelines don’t follow us. The power hides within the people not within the laws, something that we tend to forget a lot of the time. We cannot fight oppression by following rules.
So, back to the kid on the street. My mates found him at around 10:00 in the evening and did what was natural and very human; told him to stay at ours until the morning when we can figure out which center we need to take him to. As apparent as it is disturbing that is something that French law disagrees with. According to the laws here we should have called the police (who are well-known for mistreating people of colour; mistreating though is not strong enough word to describe the way the CRS acts sometimes).
Anyway, if we called them, the police would take him to the station and lock him up in a cell for at least 24 hours, if they manage to figure out what to do with the boy in the meantime. That means spending a night between four cold walls, sometimes with no blanket (they take everything off you), not knowing what they will do with you, and getting treated like a piece of garbage just because you don’t have a ‘note’ that states your eligibility to stay in this country. I believe that as a 16 year old boy who crossed multiple countries and the sea on a tiny boat with little or no understanding of his options, his rights or his future, and above all no trust in a system that has outcast him, he would rather choose the street, since that is the only freedom you’ve got – the freedom to make your own decisions.
You must know that something is fundamentally wrong when the laws that are supposed to protect you are working against you. So my question is: how do you stay lawful when laws are prejudicial themselves? How can you follow the rules when they stop working in your favour and, in this situation, the favour of thousands of people fleeing war and injustice?
We did what our conscious souls told us to do: the boy stayed with us for the night. We watched a movie, drew pictures and asked some questions just trying to figure out what next steps we should take. Not many options were available…the boy wanted to take a bus to Paris where he would be back on the streets joining his friends or we could bring him to another camp where French authorities would give him at least some sort of support. It was a hard decision to make, choosing between your friends – that little comfort zone that you have – and another camp where you can only hope for support but you never know until you get there. He showed trust in us and chose the camp. A tiny light of hope that one day you might get asylum in France if you follow the system, no matter how flawed it is.
Taking the boy in for the night might not have been ‘ethical’, lawful or professional, but I believe that it was the right thing to do. If we can’t follow the system that we are in, we have to create a new one: a system with no borders or structure but the limits of your own moral compass; a system run by hearts of kind and brave people who sacrifice their lives, put themselves in danger, do things that are not always legal, just to make a little difference in someone else’s life.
As we fed the boy back into the system that has already rejected him, I realised not much had changed aside from having a warm bed to himself. Perhaps the decision to go to Dunkirk rather than Paris will turn out to be pivotal in his life.
When everything around you is unethical – and I am talking about police stopping and searching every person of the colour on the streets, kids sleeping in parks, people getting treated like their lives don’t matter – it takes a brave heart to say ‘I had enough,’ and do what you have to do to make it a little less painful, even if it can get you in a trouble. I am wholeheartedly proud of the people that I get to work and live with everyday, see how the heart takes over the mind, offering a new perspective to the world we are living in at the moment.