In Calais, the consequences of Cameron’s immigration policy are painfully clear

Natalie Bennett reports from the makeshift camp where thousands of refugees fear the onset of winter

 

The infamous ‘Jungle’ camp where thousands of refugees live in Calais brings inhumane conditions – standpipes that serve hundreds, flimsy tents on unsuitable ground that house thousands as winter approaches, inadequate toilets that risk spreading infection with every rain shower – to the heart of Europe.

After spending last Friday there with Green peer Jenny Jones and French Green representatives, I felt deeply shocked.

My heart was warmed by the number of volunteers from around Europe – but mostly from the UK – who are trying to make the lives of these vulnerable, wounded, damaged people healthier and happier.

One Afghan refugee said to me: “British people are so wonderful and caring.” I couldn’t quite work out how to tell him that while many communities have offered to host refugees, it’s not quite true to say that the Britons he encounters every day, from the voluntary sanitary team to the free kitchen operators and medical volunteers, are representative of the entire British public.

I was shocked by the accounts of the lives of the residents – children who’ve known nothing but fear, war and flight, women who’ve had to endure abuse, violence, and desperate insecurity. And the men who desperately want to reach family, live with their loved ones, to finish interrupted studies and get on with their lives.

And then there are expectant mothers. One resident went into labour while we were at ‘the Jungle’ – a labour that began in the cramped, cold conditions of a donated caravan.

Volunteers told me how they worried about the pregnant women, often the most desperate to smuggle themselves into the UK. “Many pregnant women want to move home before they give birth, to settle down into a long-term home,” one said. “Residents here are no different – the least they want is a country.”

Also shocking are the bandaged hands and arms that quickly become familiar. “You don’t want to see what razor-wire does to hands,” one health worker said to me. And crutches, lots of crutches – essentials for victims of torture, victims of local road rage, victims of failed smuggling attempts.

The French have tossed large rough stones (you couldn’t really call it gravel) on some of the boggiest parts of the camp’s roads. Watching men on crutches trying to navigate this obstacle is a painful sight.

All of the residents are stuck in a dirty, uncomfortable, dangerous limbo. They’re desperate, mostly, to get to the United Kingdom.

Some, in any sort of just system, should be in the UK already. They have children here, they have wives here, they did work that supported British forces in our many recent military adventures.

Others want to join extended family, to start to rebuild life with that support. Some already speak good English and want to be able to use that skill, together with their education and training (often to university level).

Along with access to food and clean water, smartphones are essential to the modern refugee. In every corner of ‘the Jungle’, residents are huddled around multi-socket extension cables spiked with phone chargers. They are connected to the world as no previous similar exodus has been.

Newsflashes reach here in a second just as anywhere else, but reliable information about their legal status and the asylum law in the countries where they might seek refuge, about the intentions of the French government for their current home and their future, about their rights under French and international law, is difficult to come by.

Residents were understandably curious about our party and the media pack that accompanied us. But mostly they wanted to know what we knew about who might be able to help them find refuge, re-join family, and get out of this dirty, dangerous environment before winter sets in.

They certainly know about the British government, the British policies that keep them here. The name ‘David Cameron’ brings a rumble of disgust from any camp crowd.

That’s understandable, for ‘the Jungle’ should not exist.

The British government – as a matter of extreme urgency – should agree a rapid, fair processing system with the French to allow the lodging of applications for asylum in Britain and allow those with good cause to settle here.

There are about 6,000 people in ‘the Jungle’; if 4,000 of them came to Britain it would be entirely manageable given how many communities have volunteered to help.

We’d also need to ensure that ‘the Jungle’ didn’t simply fill up again. Britain should be joining the rest of Europe in an orderly, coordinated programme for the refugees who’ve reached Europe already – and welcoming our share.

We need to work with Europe and the UN to ensure there is a resettlement programme from countries such as Lebanon and Jordan so refugees don’t have to risk their lives on the Med, in the hands of smugglers.

And we must act now. We simply cannot leave people in ‘the Jungle’ over winter.

Natalie Bennett is the leader of the Green Party. Follow her on Twitter

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20 Responses to “In Calais, the consequences of Cameron’s immigration policy are painfully clear”

  1. Mann T.

    Volunteers told me how they worried about the pregnant women, often the most desperate to smuggle themselves into the UK.

    ———————-
    And why are they pregnant?

    If you empty that jungle it will simply fill again and again and again. These people are lawbreaking illegal migrants. They are behaving like hooligans, They can take refuge in France. So, why not? Real refugees do not pick and choose and fight and break down fences and assault people.

  2. Nick

    The refugees need to get out of all of northern Europe before December because if we get a cold snap the temperatures can drop there to minus 10 just like that and many will die

    they need to be on a Greek island wherever possible as the temperatures there remain above freezing even in Berlin they will die as Germany is not the place to be also Austria a no no unless your going skiing and the refugees certainly wont be doing that

  3. Toffer99

    The Daily Mail is over there -on the right.

  4. Mann T.

    Try dealing with facts rather than stereotyping.

  5. Dan Breen

    For you to have a plan, you need to quote figures.

    If Britain accepted 10 million over 5 years would that be enough? 20 Million?

    The population of Africa is set to expand by 1.3bn in the next 35 years? Should Europe take half? Come on!! I want to know!

  6. steroflex

    Natalie, your virtue signalling is quite painful to read.
    The only lorry boys I know are here for a spree. They are, you might say, larrikins. Two are very clever, hard working and angry. One is completely off his head. All are Muslim, one pious.
    One family has arrived in this little town in the Fens – one – and they were absolutely charming – from Guinee.
    You only have to look at the TV for a second to see that women and children are a tiny minority, no matter how hard the camera searches.
    I would love to go and live in Australia. No chance!

  7. Rick

    It’s not “consequences of Cameron’s immigration policy”, but the irresponsibility of the individual illegal immigrants who should be sent back home.

  8. steroflex

    Soon death will come calling with dysentery, aids, TB and pneumonia. I wonder where they really go to take a dump or have a drink. I wonder what the mud actually consists of. Hypothermia?
    Mediaeval armies never lasted long. And now we have the cold to take into account. European armies never fought in the winter if they could help it.

  9. jj

    This article ignores the fact that this camp has been around for decades.

  10. Esmee Phillips

    “I was shocked by the accounts of the lives of the residents – children
    who’ve known nothing but fear, war and flight, women who’ve had to
    endure abuse, violence, and desperate insecurity”

    Is there anyone on the planet as gullible as a rich lefty virtue-signaller?

    99% of these people are not refugees. They are economic chancers, mainly single young men who lived far from any scene of conflict. They are well schooled by people traffickers to say or do anything to get to the promised land of welfare. Among them are Muslim fanatics who owe no loyalty to their target places of residences.

    As an Australian, Ms ‘Plywood Houses’ Bennett may not care about the social and cultural cohesion of our overcrowded country, let alone the labour market for its poorer citizens. But if Labour and the Greens keep falling for such sob stories and busily heap up the nation’s funeral pyre, they will be rejected by Britons.

    We want our country back. It’s ours, not theirs. They have nothing to give us and we owe them nothing.

  11. Esmee Phillips

    Lazy response.

  12. Esmee Phillips

    Well, we now have TB back in Britain as a result of vibrant, diverse cultural enrichment.

  13. Esmee Phillips

    You never get figures from Social Justice Warriors, only ‘Have I made you ashamed of yourself yet, you hateful bigot? If not, why not?’

  14. Alan Costa

    Got a petition, just ask the Green Party and they will support anything for publicity. Shame they have no ideas as this piece shows

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  16. Susan Toft Hardiman

    We are talking about people who are part of our of our planet let’s not forget that are human instinct is to love and protect and help our fellow man it’s only the greedy are not willing to share there will be good nd bad amongst these poor people and well done to all that help for the good

  17. Susan Toft Hardiman

    As an Australian I think you should drink your courted and wounded were you came from unless your an aboriginal of course then you would make sense

  18. Woo11

    TB first began to re-emerge during the 80’s, it is now declining, see below:

    ‘Cases of malnutrition and other “Victorian” diseases are
    soaring in England, in what campaigners said was a result of cuts to
    social services and rising food poverty.

    NHS statistics show that 7,366 people were admitted to
    hospital with a primary or secondary diagnosis of malnutrition between
    August 2014 and July this year, compared with 4,883 cases in the same
    period from 2010 to 2011 – a rise of more than 50 per cent in just four
    years.

    Cases of other diseases rife in the Victorian era including scurvy,
    scarlet fever, cholera and whooping cough have also increased since
    2010, although cases of TB, measles, typhoid and rickets have fallen.’ 28 Oct 2015, The Independent.

  19. Woo11

    Here’s some figures just for you Esmee to your previous statement that cases of TB were rising due to immigration:

    ‘Cases of malnutrition and other “Victorian” diseases are
    soaring in England, in what campaigners said was a result of cuts to
    social services and rising food poverty.

    NHS statistics show that 7,366 people were admitted to
    hospital with a primary or secondary diagnosis of malnutrition between
    August 2014 and July this year, compared with 4,883 cases in the same
    period from 2010 to 2011 – a rise of more than 50 per cent in just four
    years.

    Cases of other diseases rife in the Victorian era including scurvy,
    scarlet fever, cholera and whooping cough have also increased since
    2010, although cases of TB, measles, typhoid and rickets have fallen.’

    They also say that TB in some areas of London is higher than in Iraq – and its cause is malnutrition, homelessness and drug abuse.

    28 October 2015, The Independent quoting figures from The NHS, the Trussell Trust and the Health and Social Care Information Centre and Age UK.

  20. Peter Simmons

    So your idea is to make illegal migrants British citizens and that will solve everything and stop you feeling guilty because you are middle-class and affluent? Simplistic thinking doesn’t solve complex problems. You reward illegality and no one bothers to use the legal; migration route, and more hear about their ‘success’ and leave to have the same. A refugee is someone who moves from thir country into a neighbouring country, not people whop travel across many countries to get to the UK. THAT is their choice, and it isn’t our responsibility. Bleeding hearts never solve anything, they make themselves feel good though.

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