Yesterday, we spent a happy day in the Jungle. The sun was shining, the lovely Mustafa, a 21-year old Afghan from Welcome Restaurant showed me the little terrace he was building overlooking the lake, and the donation I had from generous supporters for the Kids Restaurant (which provides free food for the unaccompanied children in the camp), paid the big bill from the bread man.
We also joined Sikander (who runs the Kids Restaurant), on his journey to the hospital to visit a 15-year-old boy who had been shot in the neck by police. Sikander is my hero. A refugee himself, he has put everything into helping other refugees and provides a warm meal and a safe place for hundreds of under 18’s in the camp every single day. They all get involved, peeling potatoes, sweeping the floor, and it’s so lovely to see.
Then today, literally just now, we watched as a wall of riot police descended on the whole area and raided multiple restaurants including Welcome Restaurant and the Kids Restaurant. They bagged up donated food and arrested all the restaurant owners, including Sikander, who was taken away in a police van like a criminal.
SIKANDER IS FEEDING UNACCOMPANIED CHILDREN; he has given up his own life for the future of others, young victims of war...and he has just been arrested for doing so.
Together with other restaurant owners who are inspiringly making the best of a bad situation, attempting to create a life for themselves with displays of incredible entrepreneurial spirit, they were punished as if they had done something other than heroic.
We need to support the Kids Restaurant now more than ever. They still need to eat. You can support Sikander and his efforts here:
19th July 2016
(L'Auberge Des Migrants International FB Page)
Today, the police started an operation to exercise control on all the restaurants and shops in the jungle. The reasons given were: these are 'illegal business (ie established without authorisation); an underground economy is being sustained; and there is an absence of health and safety measures."
We believe the real reasons are to discourage the refugees from staying in Calais; to prevent them from helping themselves; and to kill the solidarity and sharing that has existed between refugees and volunteers for many months now.
The police are arresting one owner from each place of business and confiscating anything and everything that is part of their business: pots and pans, gas stoves, food supplies, scissors and shavers...
This should not be a cause for panic among any novices or experienced volunteers.
1).This is not the first time nor will it be the last time the police resort to such tactics.
2) Refugees are resigned to their plight and have not resorted to fighting. Most are used to this kind of treatment. None of the shop owners ever expected to be able to keep a shop for years in the jungle.
3) Things are not, in fact, changing, so do not change your plans. Come if you planned to come - there will still be work to do and donations are still needed!
We do not think the jungle will be dismantled before the end of September.
Furthermore, bear in mind that dismantling the jungle does NOT mean the end of refugees in and around Calais.
This action from the government today is more to intimidate and discourage both refugees and volunteers than anything else. So stay strong, and calm...
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