Written by Tudor Etchells
The summer solstice was a particularly wet one in London as Jae June and Tudor headed to catch the bus to Calais. Hearing the news that on World Refugee day there were now 65 million refugees around the world, the greatest number since records began, spurred us on to make sure that the project will improve the lives of some of those refugees and migrants that end up in “The Jungle”.
However, upon disembarking from the ferry, we were immoderately confronted with the reality of life at the camp. The road that leads to and from the ferry port runs immediately alongside the Jungle is surrounded by two layers of high, white metal fencing. Coming around the bend, heading inland, we saw smoke was rising from the side of the road. We later came to realise that it was tear gas as we approached a large convoy of CRS (French Riot Police) vans and officers firing canisters over the other side. Our driver who had also clearly taken an interest in what was going on, failed to notice the caravan that pulled in as he drove in to the back of him.
The bus stopped as the drivers exchanged details and proceeded to become the seating for the tragic scenario. Residents of the camp were outside of the fence, lobbing stones at the CRS. The CRS were gathered around a hole in the fence, firing teargas at the residents; at some points directly towards them and other times into the air. The projectiles were approximately 20cm long and the width of a water bottle. Although such projectiles are not designed to be fired directly at crowds but often are, in Calais. To add to the tragedy of the situation, in a bizarre moment of slapstick, a tear gas canister bounced back off the fence landing alongside the CRS as the bus erupted with laughter.
Upon reaching the Ferry port Jae June and Tudor made the small walk into the centre of Calais to meet Chris. Eager to get started early for the next, we made our way to the apartment to unpack, make a tomato and sardine pasta and settle in. Planning for the following day we decided to keep it simple and head to L’Auberge des Migrants who had begun conducting a form of needs assessment of their own. As we discussed the plans for the following day ,we anticipated that our plans would develop naturally after seeing what came of our visit to the L’Auberge’s warehouse and office.