Twenty four boxes of dried apricots and 1500 eggs had been delivered to the warehouse when we arrived this morning. As perishable goods, these needed transferring to camp asap. Three of us loaded the van and drove them to two of the large camp kitchens. We went to Kitchen in Calais first; some of the staff were still sleeping but some Malaysian volunteers welcomed us and unlocked the gates for us to unload.
We then drove through the dusty camp streets to Belgian Kitchen to unload the rest. Our van wheel got stuck in the ground and a group of residents appeared to help push us out.
A young boy approached our van and asked if we had a tennis ball so he could play cricket. Of course we didn’t but Peter, a teacher from London in our team had brought three along in his rucksack which was back at the warehouse, so we promised to bring one later. He pointed out the caravan he lives in; I hope we can find it again when we return.
In the afternoon we returned and delivered the tennis ball to the young lad, he wasn’t around but we left it with a neighbour.
As we walked through camp a police presence was evident. They were carrying out the very activity a resident, Imran, had described the previous day whilst chatting to us in the school.
Police have started routinely entering camp to close down the shops and restaurants that have sprung up. Imran had described how the cafes and restaurants enable residents to meet and socialise, charge phones, watch TV and find out what is going on in the world.
The armed police presence with their mission to deny residents the opportunity to socialise causes frustration and tension; in camp there is little else to do but exist once other self-made activities are proscribed. This is clearly part of an agenda of dehumanising these people.
Part of this outrage is that the police confiscate food and water from the camp restaurants, sometimes opening up water bottles and pouring out the water in front of the thirsty people. We heard a local government official (or possibly plain clothes police officer) justify today’s raid on the basis that the restaurant owners don’t pay tax! They are camp residents ie. Stateless people, who yearn to be citizens, to work and to pay tax. Britain – let them in.
The disgusting irony is that we had delivered food in the morning to help sustain life; in the afternoon police were confiscating food, essentially criminalising survival.
We went back to the school, somewhat jaded, to do more tuition.