Following his recent trip to the Calais ‘jungle’ – Bromsgrove and Redditch Green Party candidate, Giovanni ‘Spoz’ Esposito shared with us his experience of life at the refugee camp in Northern France…
“After a long and tiring, but very rewarding week of poetry workshops around the Midlands, I was really excited about heading out to “The Jungle” (as it has become known) in Calais – though I’m not sure that “excited” is really the right word to use in this context.
I guess there was a level of trepidation. Would I be confronted by a feral “bunch of migrants?” Would I be fraternising with terrorists? Would I be at risk of being mugged? Or raped? After all, these are the stories that are regularly circulated by… Well… You know.
I’d been invited to go by “Stand Up To Racism – Birmingham” and decided I had to go and see for myself. Upon arrival in Calais, our group headed to the “Care 4 Calais” warehouse, where we were welcomed by volunteers from all over the world. We helped to sort clothes and package up food and toiletries. Once the packages had been made up, we went to the camp to distribute them to the refugees.
It was a very grey and cold day and I was a little nervous. Would our van be inundated by refugees clambering for food? The short answer is “no.”
As we pulled up and jumped out of the van to distribute parcels, a very orderly queue formed. I handed out food parcels to a very grateful and smiley group of refugees, all of whom said “thank you” at the very least and some of whom laughed and joked about my hair and said they hoped to see me again.
We had a very emotional moment when we gave out the last food parcel and there were dozens of refugees that were going to be disappointed. They didn’t riot, but just said “thank you for coming”.
The next day – Valentine’s Day – we walked around the camp to talk to the refugees. Within five minutes, me and my two friends Vimal and Adam, had been invited in to drink tea with five guys from Sudan.
Joseph, the only one of the five who spoke good English, told us how he wanted to come to the U.K to meet up with his sister. One of the other guys had a wife and two children in the UK too.
The shack we sat in was smoky, due to a fire being used to boil a kettle for us. We talked and drank tea and Joseph said he would swim to the UK if he had to. Sudan was too dangerous for him.
We spoke with children from Syria, people from Iraq, Afghanistan and Eritrea. They were and are beautiful people. Just people… Trying to escape from war-torn countries and threats of violence against them. And the devil of all ironies is that we don’t want to let them in. We have abandoned our British Values of tolerance, compassion and Christianity for fear, discrimination and more fear. And while we build fences instead of bridges, we do ourselves and our nation a disservice.”