Why aren’t we talking about the Calais refugees?

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Remember the Calais jungle? Ever since it was officially shut down in October 2016, the refugee crisis only 26 miles away has blissfully drifted out of our heads, replaced by more fun, fresh topics like Brexit and ‘thank u, next’. However, two years on, there are still thousands of people living in makeshift mini-camps in Dover and Calais in what the UN has described as “inhumane” conditions, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon, despite the best efforts of the Calais police force.

The French authorities that are charged with disbanding any refugee gatherings carried out 78 camp clearances in October and 77 in September, a process which involves slashing tents, stealing shoes, and smashing mobile phones. This is happening up to 4 times per week, to refugees of all ages – including young children. These children, many of whom have been separated from their parents, have developed a plethora of mental health conditions since the Jungle was demolished, with “approximately 90% meeting the criteria for a recognised psychiatric disorder, such as PTSD and depression”, according to Dr Susannah Fairweather, a psychiatrist who assessed some of the children in the camps.

In the UK media, I’ve heard far more in the past couple of months about the crisis on the USA-Mexico border. Trump isn’t the only one willing to use tear gas on people with nowhere to go, with a recent raid reported to have been carried out by over 50 police officers, some of whom were armed with assault rifles and tear gas grenade launchers. We should be hearing about this on the news, not in random articles floating around Facebook.

Despite the lack of coverage of this hardship by our good old BBC, there’s still plenty we can do. It’s easy to dissociate from these crises, but refugees are people just like us, and they’re people that still very much need our help. Help Refugees and their partners L’Auberge des Migrants are NGOs that provide blankets, clothes, food and water, WIFI and women and children’s services to refugees who need it. They have had over 25,000 volunteers since mid-2015 come out to Calais and give up their time to help; be it for a weekend or 6 months, people from all walks of life are welcome.

Of course, not everyone can up sticks and be a volunteering superhero, no matter how much we’d like to. But all is not lost – anyone can help in other ways; you could donate one month’s of cheesy chips funds (which is either tiny or massive depending on what kind of a person you are), you could raise some money by doing a sponsored skydive (win-win), or send over some clothes and shoes. Those hot pink hi-tops from year 8 that you can’t make eye-contact with anymore? They could keep a Syrian teenage girl warm for a little while longer, so send them over. There are drop-off points all over the UK. Help Refugees have also recently set up a website called Choose Love, where you can buy gifts for refugees this Christmas, some for as little as a fiver.

For whatever reason, we don’t hear about this anymore. But, that doesn’t mean we need to forget about it. We can all do something to help make life a little easier for these people until they find a new place to call home.

Image credit: malachybrowne via Wikimedia Commons.