Calais Diaries: Dunkirk Mud

Calais Diaries: Dunkirk Mud

Robs’ Diary. Second Calais and Dunkirk Trip.

22/2/16 Dunkirk mud:

Went to Dunkirk as Jungle still in eviction limbo. Really brutal to see. Inhumane beyond words. Stopped & searched by police on motorway. 5th time now in 2 days. Not friendly. Parked in Decathlon and smuggled rucksacks of tools and nails through gap in hedge when police not looking. Shockingly muddy. Deep clay, poo and rubbish. 

Mainly Kurdish families. Really lovely and deeply upsetting to see so many beautiful children running around. Not like jungle at all. Camp run by English passport smuggling Mafia. Dangerous men. 

Run a far more swift turnover to UK than jungle. 

People said they were "Safer cos of Mafia control. Any trouble, they sort them out." 

Ru, Paul and Ffin Built a massive 20'x40' tree framed distribution centre with chainsaws and trees from the woods. 

Mark and I went to Auberge (we drive through a teargas cloud on motorway) and designed containers windows and shelters for Dunkirk MSF site nearby Dunkirk that they've rented from council but can't legally build so have given build control to Auberge, now up to lovely young blacksmith way out of his depth.

Drew up plans and cutting lists.

Back to Dunkirk. Lots more tree cutting in surrounding woods, tree dragging, mud slipping, nailing and rope lashing. Caked head to toe. Soaked. Rained all day. 

Then back to jungle for amazing dinner and shisha (smelly tobacco) pipes in the 3 idiots with first aid midwife friend of Mark's. 

Tomorrow. Judge visit 9am and eviction hearing 2pm. Police say all to be evicted by 8pm.

This is clearly not possible. 


23/2/16 Legal limbo:

Everyone in total limbo today. 

Judge came round 9 am this morning followed by procession of 300 refugees and migrants. She's  looking prior to the 2pm case. 

She spoke with no one in the south. Her significant security informed anyone who tried "This is a non verbal inspection"... 

If the aim was to assess the normal activity of the camp, then it couldn't have been worse. 

9am Everyone's normally asleep as been out "playing the game" all night, so mornings start 6 hours later. This is 3 am jungle time. 

All awaiting a decision...

No one can do anything or can be seen to be packing down before, as sends negative signal to residents and police... 

So very frustrating. All odd job lists completed....

3pm Now heard!!

Decision postponed for 48 hours. 

Perhaps good for them, but very bad  also as now media will wander off, We'll be on ferry when the order does or doesn't come, can't dismantle...

4pm All off on mass bike fixing binge. Plenty of work!

5pm Absolutely bonkers. After fixing bikes for a few hours in the court case limbo, we got urgent call from Toms sister at 6pm to "go go go" to the new MSF site at night for a sneaky meeting round the back of some ex military smashed out warehouses in the back of an industrial estate wedged between a motorway, a train depot and the docks. Felt like a TV gangster murder set. Very odd. 

Met a man from the Mayors office (the Green party member of a 47% national front District?) who will illicitly provide timber for the MSF centre for us to design and build the pedestrian bridge over a stream for the new relocated Dunkirk camp. The site has been rented by MSF off the local council but because there is no planning they cannot build but will allow the volunteers to build illegally on it, which they will fund indirectly. Also the mayor will buy other materials for us, but will have to add bill to different build project as he cannot be seen to offer any assistance to the migrants either, as local uproar. 

The whole thing is totally bizarre and so deeply wrong. (Upside is no building regs, paperwork or any other rules, just make stuff) We were taking measurements while the poor confused security guard found us and is shouting us to leave because no one, MSF or the council or the site owner would confirm to him that we have permission to be there or that the job is taking place. 

The fact that so much of the vital infrastructure even on the "official site" is being made by volunteers, most with no relevant experience, through illicit convoluted money channels as no one official can be either seen to help or can get round the bureaucracy of acting on 4000 refugees living in a lake of literal shit under a gun toting Mafia is absolutely insane. Where is the UNHCR? Where is the Red Cross?

Now the Kurdish Mafia run it instead. 

Many of the refugees are Kurdish Peshmerga translators, used by UK to defeat Saddam Hussein , but now no use and being killed as traitors. 

Cost to smuggle whole family can be up to €55k (some offer money back guarantees!)

The local council sent in a team of "cleaners" yesterday to Dunkirk, instructed to remove 400 tents. They slashed and removed some, many occupied, but not 400. 


24/2/16 MSF madness

Been working at new MSF site stripping out stables and barns for food depot run by London squatter charity, and also trying to sort out crazy madness of awfully built leaky MSF shelters by talking with MSF build bosses. They've provided hundreds of tents but they've mainly blown down as badly made, so also had made, shipped in and assembling wood and tin huts. Problem is they all leak badly as a silly design. The Auberge build team ( 3 x  twenty something hippies) have been taking the whole roof back off loads of them, fixing them and re-attaching them for months on the load at the jungle previously provided, and been repeatedly explaining the problems to MSF. 

MSF continue to build them totally ignoring the fact they all leak and will need re roofing by the volunteers next week. All 150 of them. 


As well as the happy welcoming spirits of the refugees, the perseverance and patience of the long term volunteers is truly incomprehensible. Most are shattered. 

Ru and Paul back at jungle now, sleeping over as security guards in women and children's centre tonight. Just had a big tent fire. All put out. No police or gas. 

Back in tent, just had a chat with Liz who's running the kids space, she's an incredible woman. She said  UNHCR did finally come down last week but were beyond useless. They came at 3pm, requested a meeting with the 400 kids for 12 the next day.  Liz explained to her that 

A. They're mostly asleep as been out all night chasing trains.
B. How can you contact 400 vulnerable children in an afternoon.
C. It's taken 6 months to win their trust and make contact for Liz and they expect an afternoon...

The lady replied if they really want help they should be there. 

She agreed to postpone the meeting till 3 pm and then had it in the social services centre in the north offices where very few of the children will ever go as very wary of the authorities there (with very good reason)

There was no translator present so complete disaster. 

So now Liz has to also officially complain to counteract the probable conclusion of the "official" report of UNCHR that there's hardly any kids there. (And they're lazy!!)

On the semi positive, Liz and co have gathered files and submitted 280 cases for child protection orders and have had 12 accepted so far. Had an ombudsman ruling that till all are processed, they can't bulldoze children, but still looks like it's going ahead...

Rufus met a lovely gentle man from Darfur yesterday, who showed him some photos of all his children after they'd been chopped up by machetes,

and also women laying in ditches with their baby's still strapped to their backs.

He ran from his village and took photos later so there'd be some record of his village and people existing as all were killed and burnt. 

He came over when in the Kabul Cafe today and was all smiles, blessings and greeting. 

Really confusing place. 

Fuel is really low now so much plastic. Shoes, sleeping bags and fibre-glass tent poles seem popular.

Proper toxic. Also inside the tents. acrid smoke wafting out and all there sat around it cooking. 

Shoe fuel. All wood was removed by authorities. 

First aid caravan. Police beatings poster. ROB’S PICTURE, SEE EMAIL.


25/2/16 Jungle and MSG. 

9am Picked up Ru and Paul from night watch. Much drumming all night. No more fires. The 12 year old kids came back to site at 7am from night of chasing lorries. One way of many is they wedge between the Chassis frames with bums on the axle. That's how they get spotted. A volunteer said she'd been working on ratchet strap systems to pull their bums up higher out of sight and danger. 

Odd moral one. Directly aiding smuggling or saving a child's life... Some do 5 lorries a night and keep being chucked off from docks or trailer parks. So so dangerous. 

9:30am Went to Dunkirk MSF site. Timber arrived via mayors office at 10am as agreed last night at 5:30!

Never known such an efficient council process!! 

Mark and crew built a big bridge, and Ffin and I built a steel staircase from one we liberated from the weird warehouses last night in a comedy running away with a really heavy ladder whilst keeping out of sight of the security patrol and his big dog.

6pm Went to jungle to find out court news. Met by a crying kids volunteer. Judge has upheld eviction. 

Heartless lady. Just can't believe it. She stated on her visit when pressed by the volunteers to talk to them that "This was not a talking visit."

What the hell is the point of a site visit if you actively refuse to talk to anyone on site?

According to the Joes, the children were barely mentioned in the hearing. 

So they're getting their own lawyer. 

Went to an amazing Afghan cafe for dinner. The two owners had both lived in London for 10 months but were deported back home so this is their second try.  Brilliant humour. Loved the English people. Loved their good food. So sad. 

Troubled by tales from Sudanese guy of many Sudanese women dead in ditches with babies still strapped to their backs....

Regarding the often pitched argument that these aren't all refugees, they're just economic migrants (and by extension that this therefore means that it's ok to bulldoze their homes and set dogs on them. (Many children have shown me their police dog bites.)

I know our view is just our view and very quick snap shot, but of the people that we ask what their story is and why they're here. The overwhelming majority have deeply horrendous stories and are undoubtedly not here just for a better job!

The later better-ish news is that the eviction won't be so swift. Perhaps 2 weeks time, and not include the centers (women and childrens, theatre, schools etc) but they said that last time and then bulldozed them a week later once press was gone, so seems unlikely. Also there's not much point in a children's centre if you've evicted and expelled the children.... 

Dunkirk police were set to barricade their site last night in case the evicted refugees tried to come there. 

(There's a further 8 smaller sites in the area) 

The refugee barristers view of the delay was that because the site is full of weekend warrior volunteers and press at the moment, they'll wait till they're bored and have left and it's not news worthy anymore, then do it. 

So, no take down of the dome tomorrow .  After a week on stand by for it, off home, along with many other volunteers all here to help with the big eviction. A delay is a very effective strategic move. Feels bad.

Here's the bridge before and after photos. None of us could really work out why they want a footbridge to the motorway..?

Something about separate access agreements...

There'll be razor wire between it and them, but in another weird mayoral manoeuvre , there was a mix up allowing the lean out direction of the razor overhang to be switched on the plans to lean away from the camp, making the lorries much easier to access...


26/2/16 going home. 

9am Went to Auberge warehouse to drop off the borrowed tools, turns out all the workshop is being evicted this Monday as building now being demolished. 

This is the workshop that builds everything for both sites. The entire practical supply of shelters and tools for two refugee sides of over 10,000 people in total. It has a total of three shoddy Screwfix chop saws, maybe five knackered cordless drills and a few hammers and screws. No mains electricity, (generator), 2 of 4 of the walls are missing and they've built a complex system of internal gutters out of old tents gaffered together to redirect the rain nearer to the building edges.

9:30am Went to jungle, met by mass of police vans and volunteer vehicles. Despite last nights claims of 2 weeks notice, the council backed up by riot police was going around in teams telling all the migrants tent by tent that they had one hour to leave before their homes would be destroyed.

The volunteers believe this to be a bluff as if the refugees start to move, the appeal will likely fail and also bulldozing can imminently begin etc.  

The volunteers were there then re explaining this to all refugees that legally they don't have to move yet if they don't wish to...

We didn't know what to do, whether to cancel ferry. Never a good time to leave. Left in the end as plenty of volunteers doing "Operation white shield, wielding the shield of privilege"  as one volunteer called it. 

Met good chance Joe on way out in process of being arrested for not having passport on him...

Drove past our 7 layer thick UK paid for £8 million "ring-of-steel" razor wire fencing, (and a load of British army low loaders laden with bulldozers. I assume to "help with the crisis") and straight onto the ferry (after a search)

Very strange wrong feeling.