Plymouth Calais Refugee Aid

Update posted by Hayley Kemp On May 23, 2016
As some of you know I have very recently returned from Northern Iraq. Whilst there I visited and distributed aid to refugees in the camps, from Salahuddin province. Human Rights Watch says: "Militia abuses are wreaking havoc among some of Iraq’s most vulnerable people and exacerbating sectarian hostilities." If you would like to hear about the current situation there for these people & see more pictures please feel free to contact me to come & do a talk to groups, colleges, schools, workplaces, trade unions, faith groups et al please feel free to e-mail me Thanks.

Hayley

[email protected]

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Update posted by Hayley Kemp On Dec 10, 2015

On our latest trip we set off with a group of 11 people, from Plymouth & Portsmouth. This is the third trip I've done that was a Plymouth/Portsmouth Calais trip, we are thinking we should be twinned! The group included people with building & carpentry skills as well as a nurse. Three of us had been before, the others hadn't but had been inspired by our last trip to join us on this one.

In our truck we set off with over a thousand pounds worth of tarpaulin that I had purchased from donations, along with the rest of the space filled with sleeping bags & blankets & new tools & wind up lamps. We met at the ferry and all booked in to the hostel ready for an early start the next day.

I had arranged for 4 of us to do building work & we set off to the building warehouse. The others went to do warehouse sorting & distribution in the camp, with the nurse joining the medical team. The first day was spent putting together the self build packs, this involves cutting & assembling the frames, cutting the tarpaulins & making doors & attaching locks & hinges. We worked hard as we were conscious that we wanted to complete as much as we could in the time we were there.

The next day I wanted to take the builders to the camp as none of the others in this group had been before. I arranged for them to do repairs on site to the self builds. We loaded the van up with spare doors, wood tarps & tools & headed off to the first area where we were directed to do repairs. Whilst we were doing the first repair it wasn't long before word got around that area of what we were doing & others came up to take me off to look at their much needed repairs. Many shelters needed doors as some of the self builds had gone out without doors. This is the constant challenge of volunteers & donations operating the humanitarian aid, is that you often don't have all the materials when you need them but it is better to get a shelter out without a door rather than have it sat in the warehouse waiting. At least by getting it out some tarps/sleeping bags can cover the doorway & there is at least partial shelter. We did see some MSF shelters being built within the warehouse but whilst MSF provided the materials it is up to volunteers to finish, transport & assemble on camp.

What surprised most of us was how many people sleep in a shelter. Where you think there might fit 2 there are 4, where you think 3 there are 6. Yet most people are still sleeping in tents, collapsing from the wind & the rain. We continued with the doors & worked until it was dark on the camp & we had to call it a day. I spent a lot of time saying to others that needed their doors doing 'Bukra, InshAllah'. Tomorrow, if God wills it. This is the most satisfactory answer you can give them when you cannot do what they need right now. On our last day building in the camp we had to say we couldn't do any more & the response was always a question of 'Bukra, Inshallah'? And this time I had to say 'No, Sorry we are returning to the UK'. This felt especially hard to say knowing that this was the very place these people were trying to get to. They always responded with 'We love UK'.

We spent the rest of the trip doing repairs & fitting doors in the camp & in our earnest to get as much done as possible in the time we had, one day we didn't stop for lunch or drinks but relied on grabbing snacks when we could. The irony of grabbing a Slimfast bar from one of the group to eat in the camp, as we hadn't eaten all day, was not lost on me & I find it difficult to shake off the shame that comes with winning the birth lottery. We did manage to eat properly sometimes of course. But everywhere are reminders of the huge gulf that exists but shouldn't, between the lifestyles of one set of human beings and another. We ate in one of the restaurants in the camp. The food & drinks were served on paper plates & cups with 'baby shower' decoration on them. The waste & excess of some, myself included, starkly contrasted with the lack & need of others.

Many things will stay with me that happened, as it does every trip. One of the funniest being when one of the men wanted to show us all his 'new home'. He waited patiently for 30 minutes or more whilst we finished a job & we then followed him. He came to a spot, stopped, looked confused & then burst out laughing & walked off in another direction. We followed him as he laughed & explained that he had automatically gone to his 'old house'! In the wait he had forgotten he had moved & had automatically headed back to the old spot!

I also went to visit the Kurdish families I had helped build the first set of shelters for. It was sad to see they were still there but also a bit happier that this field of the few shelters we had built & many tents, was now a field of shelters & caravans with less tents. We said hello to everyone & many recognised me from my last visit. I am always surprised at how many people do in fact remember not just me but also many others, as they must see so many people. It reminds me of something an Iraqi once said to Quaker peace activist Tom Fox, who was killed in Iraq, 'If you remember me in good times I may forget you but if you remember me in the bad times I shall never forget you'.

One of the things that will stay with me, for obvious reasons, happened on the morning of our return. We headed to the warehouse to unload our tools from the day before. As I started to unload I found two young stowaways in the back of the truck, they had covered themselves in tarpaulin to hide & were sleeping. I had to wake them & they said 'England', I said 'No. Sorry. France'. I explained they would have to go back to the camp & they smiled & said okay. They made to get out of the truck & I gestured to them that we would drive them back to the 'Jungle'. They smiled again & said 'Shukran/Thank you'. We gave them some food from the warehouse & Andy & I drove them back to the camp. We drove around for a bit to try & disorientate them as to the location of the warehouse because nobody from the camp is allowed to know where it is. I laughed as we achieved in disorientating ourselves & said to Andy, 'they're probably in the back saying to each other "They don't know where they're going shall we show them" as we probably didn't fool them for one minute.

When we got to the camp they jumped out & as they went off they waved & blew us kisses. I didn't take a photo of them. I wanted a photo of them just to keep for myself but couldn't bring myself to take a photo of what was probably one of their most crushing moments. These two young boys I recognised from the camp the day before. They had heard us say we couldn't do any more work as we were heading back to the UK 'Bukra, tomorrow'. They had asked us at that time if we slept at the camp we had told them we didn't. Andy & I worked out that they must've walked that night into Calais centre, looked for the very distinctive red truck & climbed in under the tarpaulin. We knew they hadn't been in when we had left the camp the day before as we had used the tarpaulin that was on the back to cover something when we parked up outside the hostel that evening. The thing that stays with me the most about this though is the thought of the hopeful conversations they might have had before going to sleep that night once they had made it into the back of the truck. And this is why this situation & system is so wrong. Because it forces young people like these two boys to trek half way across the world in the hope of a life of safety and dignity. And it forces people like you & me to crush those hopes.

'That which is morally wrong cannot be politically correct.'

NOTE: I am heading back on Boxing Day with sleeping bags and blankets if you have them - again must be in good clean condition. I am planning to work in the 40 day soup kitchen that has been set up for Christmas and New Year period. The group that went out this time are returning to Calais in March. Thank you again for all your donations.

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Update posted by Hayley Kemp On Nov 05, 2015

Just to keep you updated, I am planning another trip to Calais from Friday December 4th. There will be a group of 11 of us going together from both Plymouth and Portsmouth (I?m coordinating Plymouth and my previous travelling companion Fran coordinating Portsmouth). There will be a nurse coming along with us as well as a builder from Tavistock. We will be staying to do voluntary work, some will be at the warehouse, the nurse helping out with the medics there and I have organised for the Plymouth/Tavi team to be doing the shelter building, which some of you saw the photos of last time. I like working in ?housing?! We will be taking with us blankets, sleeping bags, wood and tools, as well as some wonderful wind up torches that I purchased with the donation from the football tournament held by Balls To Borders.

I will of course be doing an update as usual on my return. We will be working with L?auberge des Migrants mentioned in the following link. If you read only one thing about the Calais Camp please read this. This is an excellent report of what the camp is really like. Whilst reading it please bear in mind that this camp is closer to the UK than Exeter is to Plymouth:

'One minute, you are driving through placid suburbia; the next minute, you are deposited at the entrance to a sprawling shantytown, where conditions appear worse than in the slums of Mumbai, a camp that is now home to more than 6,000 people, many of them vulnerable and unwell.'

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/03/refug...

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Update posted by Hayley Kemp On Oct 09, 2015

We have returned from our latest trip to Calais. It got off to a bad start, tunnel closed because migrants 'stormed' the tunnel (hurrah!), punctured tyre on Eurostar. At least this gave us the chance to speak to a French Moroccan Eurostar team manager, sympathetic to people in the camp, who has said he is coming in with us next time.
We started the day with l'auberge de migrants at the distribution warehouse, which is a logistical nightmare. We repacked donations into vans of one type of item, van full of tents, van full of blankets, another van of men's jackets et al.
This feels like chaos, unpacking and packing again as more & more vans arrive. It's only half way through that you realise there is most definitely a system. And whilst it seems to take up a lot of time at the warehouse, it actually makes distribution in the camp easy, calm & fair.
We then headed off to the camp in a convoy of vans ready to distribute. Even though I have been to the camp before, as we drive right into the camp the feelings of shock and shame are still overwhelming. Overwhelming because we are allowing people to live like this and our govts are doing nothing. It takes me a while to adjust as I feel so ashamed that I can't look people there in the face. However the logistics of distributing soon take over and you are thrown into action quickly. Because it's well organised and we are working in a large group everything remains calm. Some of us have the chance to walk along the line talking to people. Osman and his friends from Sudan show me their scars from the dogs the police set on them. He does a funny 'Tom and Jerry' style reenactment for us to make us all laugh but I'm conscious that I can't even begin to imagine how frightening it must have been. Their flesh is badly ripped on their legs and torsos by the dogs.
Once we finish distribution we head over to the 'caravan of love' to be guided to the building projects to help. Shelter is much needed especially with the winter coming soon. It takes us a while to get there because there are so many people wanting to share their stories, tents & tea with us. Everywhere people come up and shake your hand and offer you to come for a sit down with them.
We reach the field where the caravan and builders are. So many people are arriving every day and there are many Kurdish families just arrived with small children. I hear the sound of Kurdish music playing so I go to investigate. The Kurdish men are dancing and I greet them and join in the dancing with them. Some of the other volunteers also join in the dancing and the men are amused and delighted. Imagine my surprise when on my return to the UK some of my friends in Kurdistan send me a link to a Kurdish news channel showing us dancing in the camp! There is also a football match happening and it brings a smile to my face to see the Kurds even in these most difficult of circumstances doing two of their favourite things, dancing and football.
We quickly get on with some work and the rest of our days there are spent helping with the building project. It's amazing to see a whole 'street' go up and to see families move into shelters created with wood, pallets and tarpaulin. There is even a 'housing waiting list' with those most in need given the highest priority. Families with small children are usually at the top of the list and there is even flexibility to be able to do adaptations to assist those with extra needs. A shelter is built with a separate private washing area for a man with his disabled son. They are from Syria, his wife got killed in the bombing there.
In between building I chat to the Kurdish families that are newly arrived. I take some of the men to the other side of the camp to show them where the medical tent is so that they can take others to seek help if they need it. I talk to them about why they want to come to England. They want to come because they can speak English and some of them have family here. One man who arrived two days before tells me he has an Uncle in England, in a 'place called Plymouth'. I told him I was from Plymouth and asked his Uncle's name. He told me his name and I couldn't believe that it was someone I knew. We phoned his Uncle together from the camp. His Uncle was even more surprised than I was.
Whilst we were assisting with the building it gave us chance to meet some other volunteers. The volunteers were of all different nationalities and ages. One man was from Iraq who had lived in London for 15 years and wanted to help. A Kurdish family from the UK who had also once been in this situation many years before had also come over to help. The man from Iraq told me:
'Sir Cameron, Sir Hollande and the rulers around the world sit in their chateaus & sip their wine and the people are paying. This is the life.'
It was amazing how quickly the volunteers erected houses. However more volunteers, wood and tools are needed badly and this will be what I will be concentrating my efforts on in the immediate future. I have already planned the next trip talking pallets with Darren.
It was difficult to leave this time. I wanted to stay there and continue helping with the building but too soon it was time to go. We said our goodbyes to people whom we had very quickly become attached to, both inhabitants of the camp and volunteers. We promised we would be back soon. As we headed to the tunnel we passed those from the camp making the evening trip to try and get on to the lorries. I prayed inside that they would stay safe, that they wouldn't end up like so many we had seen at the camp, with broken, swollen limbs on crutches. I desperately hoped that Mercy who had cooked for all the builders and kept us fed and watered, would find some mercy.
On my return home I noticed I kept smelling burning. I kept sniffing my skin to see if it was me smelling from the burning rubbish at the camp, even though I had showered, as it was the same smell. I realised that the smell had permeated my nostrils and no washing or blowing my nose could remove it. It went after a couple of days. It is symbolic of how much the camp gets inside you. The difference for us is that we can walk away anytime whilst others are forced to call this their 'refuge' and for that we should ask, where is the humanity? These people are suffering and need our help. They are not dangerous, they are in danger.

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Update posted by Hayley Kemp On Oct 09, 2015

We have returned from our latest trip to Calais. It got off to a bad start, tunnel closed because migrants 'stormed' the tunnel (hurrah!), punctured tyre on Eurostar. At least this gave us the chance to speak to a French Moroccan Eurostar team manager, sympathetic to people in the camp, who has said he is coming in with us next time.
We started the day with l'auberge de migrants at the distribution warehouse, which is a logistical nightmare. We repacked donations into vans of one type of item, van full of tents, van full of blankets, another van of men's jackets et al.
This feels like chaos, unpacking and packing again as more & more vans arrive. It's only half way through that you realise there is most definitely a system. And whilst it seems to take up a lot of time at the warehouse, it actually makes distribution in the camp easy, calm & fair.
We then headed off to the camp in a convoy of vans ready to distribute. Even though I have been to the camp before, as we drive right into the camp the feelings of shock and shame are still overwhelming. Overwhelming because we are allowing people to live like this and our govts are doing nothing. It takes me a while to adjust as I feel so ashamed that I can't look people there in the face. However the logistics of distributing soon take over and you are thrown into action quickly. Because it's well organised and we are working in a large group everything remains calm. Some of us have the chance to walk along the line talking to people. Osman and his friends from Sudan show me their scars from the dogs the police set on them. He does a funny 'Tom and Jerry' style reenactment for us to make us all laugh but I'm conscious that I can't even begin to imagine how frightening it must have been. Their flesh is badly ripped on their legs and torsos by the dogs.
Once we finish distribution we head over to the 'caravan of love' to be guided to the building projects to help. Shelter is much needed especially with the winter coming soon. It takes us a while to get there because there are so many people wanting to share their stories, tents & tea with us. Everywhere people come up and shake your hand and offer you to come for a sit down with them.
We reach the field where the caravan and builders are. So many people are arriving every day and there are many Kurdish families just arrived with small children. I hear the sound of Kurdish music playing so I go to investigate. The Kurdish men are dancing and I greet them and join in the dancing with them. Some of the other volunteers also join in the dancing and the men are amused and delighted. Imagine my surprise when on my return to the UK some of my friends in Kurdistan send me a link to a Kurdish news channel showing us dancing in the camp! There is also a football match happening and it brings a smile to my face to see the Kurds even in these most difficult of circumstances doing two of their favourite things, dancing and football.
We quickly get on with some work and the rest of our days there are spent helping with the building project. It's amazing to see a whole 'street' go up and to see families move into shelters created with wood, pallets and tarpaulin. There is even a 'housing waiting list' with those most in need given the highest priority. Families with small children are usually at the top of the list and there is even flexibility to be able to do adaptations to assist those with extra needs. A shelter is built with a separate private washing area for a man with his disabled son. They are from Syria, his wife got killed in the bombing there.
In between building I chat to the Kurdish families that are newly arrived. I take some of the men to the other side of the camp to show them where the medical tent is so that they can take others to seek help if they need it. I talk to them about why they want to come to England. They want to come because they can speak English and some of them have family here. One man who arrived two days before tells me he has an Uncle in England, in a 'place called Plymouth'. I told him I was from Plymouth and asked his Uncle's name. He told me his name and I couldn't believe that it was someone I knew. We phoned his Uncle together from the camp. His Uncle was even more surprised than I was.
Whilst we were assisting with the building it gave us chance to meet some other volunteers. The volunteers were of all different nationalities and ages. One man was from Iraq who had lived in London for 15 years and wanted to help. A Kurdish family from the UK who had also once been in this situation many years before had also come over to help. The man from Iraq told me:
'Sir Cameron, Sir Hollande and the rulers around the world sit in their chateaus & sip their wine and the people are paying. This is the life.'
It was amazing how quickly the volunteers erected houses. However more volunteers, wood and tools are needed badly and this will be what I will be concentrating my efforts on in the immediate future. I have already planned the next trip talking pallets with Darren Johns.
It was difficult to leave this time. I wanted to stay there and continue helping with the building but too soon it was time to go. We said our goodbyes to people whom we had very quickly become attached to, both inhabitants of the camp and volunteers. We promised we would be back soon. As we headed to the tunnel we passed those from the camp making the evening trip to try and get on to the lorries. I prayed inside that they would stay safe, that they wouldn't end up like so many we had seen at the camp, with broken, swollen limbs on crutches. I desperately hoped that Mercy who had cooked for all the builders and kept us fed and watered, would find some mercy.
On my return home I noticed I kept smelling burning. I kept sniffing my skin to see if it was me smelling from the burning rubbish at the camp, even though I had showered, as it was the same smell. I realised that the smell had permeated my nostrils and no washing or blowing my nose could remove it. It went after a couple of days. It is symbolic of how much the camp gets inside you. The difference for us is that we can walk away anytime whilst others are forced to call this their 'refuge' and for that we should ask, where is the humanity? These people are suffering and need our help. They are not dangerous, they are in danger.

Add a Comment

Update posted by Hayley Kemp On Sep 20, 2015

Hi, Once again just to thank all of you, including those donating offline and the wonderful benefit gig guys at The Underground that raised over 400! Fran and I are back in Calais at the beginning of October taking sleeping bags, blankets, tents and some tools and tarpaulin. We will be staying on to do some volunteering work in the camp. John Frugal Lakey and I are going again at the end of October with his campervan, again taking tents and also tarpaulin and rocket stoves. We are also staying on in the camp to do some much needed volunteering. Hopefully taking a van also at some point in the near future with building materials. None of this would be possible without all of you. Please watch this space for any updates and thank you. I also have had some tote bags printed (thanks to Il Pleut screenprinting who did it cost price for me), all profits going to Calais, 5 waged, 4 unwaged. Message me on facebook if you are interested and would like me to send you a pic of said bag, profile pic is same as pic on this page. Or e-mail me [email protected]

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Hi Hayley, I have a large bag of tops, jeans etc even some scarves and pillows all clean and in very good condition. When are you next off to calais and where is best to drop bag off? Tim Francis of plymouth put me your way. I will also make a donation to help with your petrol x many thanks, craig x

craig roxburgh

Update posted by Oct 05

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Update posted by Hayley Kemp On Sep 03, 2015

It took me ages to write these few paragraphs as words can't describe really. Frances Vigay and I are obviously now back in the UK. More conscious than ever of those we have left behind in the camp. We gave out all the donations. It became apparent that trainers (and sleeping bags & tents) are desperately needed. We didn't count on the police being there threatening to pepper spray inhabitants of the camp. A new restaurant is being built which I'm torn as to whether this is a good thing or not (hints at a permanence). Much needed yes but what is needed more is a safe route for people to claim asylum in countries like the UK who say they give those rights to those seeking sanctuary, so that this camp shouldn't have to exist at all. And these 'restaurants' shouldn't have to be built. But because they do we have return trips planned, including doing voluntary work over there for a week at a time, taking at least two more van loads, (watch out for updates). Because of the situation in the ?jungle? when we got there, with the police and press at the entrance we drove into the centre of the camp and did a direct distribution. We didn?t hand over the donations to charities there as they are struggling with distribution and we didn?t want our stuff to sit in a warehouse for a couple of weeks. At one point we did have to try and close the car boot to get people to get in a queue, which resulted in one man having a sit down protest. I actually loved that he held his own protest and that his spirit had obviously not been dampened yet. The Sudanese guys then helped us distribute (bit rough) but we did get them to form that lovely British queue, if not quite as orderly as us! There was not one thing that went to someone who did not need it and whilst we didn?t even make a dent in what was needed we had to be content knowing that someone who didn?t have shoes that morning had shoes that evening and someone who did not have a sleeping bag/tent on Friday night had one by Saturday night.
I didn?t take too many photos as I?m aware that this could come across as ?poverty porn? and did not want to take photos of people who are, hopefully temporarily, in an undignified state. The feet photo for me sums up how desperate things are. Makes me angry that someone cannot even have a matching pair of flip flops as their only footwear they currently possess. The later photos show what has happened after this weekend?s rain, making an already unbearable situation even more desperate. It is a sobering thought that these are the ?lucky ones?, the ones who have made it this far. The facebook post and letter shows the reaction the guys had when they found personal notes among the washbags, they managed to contact us on facebook!
Please feel free to share this post and encourage people to donate if they can. I am using the cash to purchase food the camp needs once we are there and also any big purchase they identify they need such as a generator.
I can only do what I do because of your support and I am grateful for that. Thank you to all who donated and all those who sent their best wishes for a safe & good trip.
In gratitude, Hayley xx

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Update posted by Hayley Kemp On Aug 11, 2015

Hi All, Well the support is overwhelming and truly heartening. Thank you so much to all who have supported, donated, shared. We are all booked ready for the first trip and not only are we taking a van full from Plymouth on the second trip but already organising a third trip! Thanks to everyone who is helping to make this happen. I will of course update after the first trip and let you all know how it all went. This is such a lovely anti dote to the xenophobia being peddled by the press. More strength to your arm, as my fav tutor tells me. Hugs and Peace xx

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We applaud the work you are doing in Calais. Alastair & Jennie

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Keep going Hayley with this valiant work.

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Go for it! Xxx

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