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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Jungle Diary, Calais

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16/11/2015 09:10:34

Jungle Diary, Calais

 

18 October *

 

How stupid can you be?

I pull up on the muddy track that provides one point of access to the Camp. On one side there is a ‘restaurant’ constructed from heavy plastic tarpaulin and wood. On the other is a field of tents stretching to an embankment with an 8 metre metal fence topped with barbed wire. This protects the endless queue of container lorries on their way to the cross channel ferry, from the rabble in the field below. It is midday, there is no one around. A thin African boy walks up to me and asks if I have shoes. He is wearing flip flops.

… Actually I do, I say pulling open the car boot. I have 6 pairs in the back of my car, donated by my neihgbours in the half hour before I left home. Immediately some dozen young men are around me, pushing and grabbing at the boots in the car. They work out quickly that none fit and hand them back, but one man is shouting at me:

 

… Your phone, your phone - it’s taken. Someone has reached in and grabbed it from the front. Well at least they left my bag with passport and purse. The other men look sad and shake their heads. The thief has disappeared into the cluster of sodden tents. A couple run to try and find him but he has disappeared...

…Welcome to the Jungle.  A young man in woollen cap and duffle coat comes up: Hello I’m Toby. First rule - don’t distribute from the back of your car. You might think I would know that after some 20 years working in refugee camps.

 

I am here to meet Tom and Shizuka who have been coming to the camp regularly since August and have set up Help Calais, a crowd funding platform that has already raised more than £60,000 to help various projects in the Camp.  When I asked on Facebook if they needed some help, they said please come over.

I drive back into Calais to find a Wifi connection for my computer, and cancel my mobile sim. I don’t mind losing an old smart phone - but can’t afford to fund endless telephone calls to the Middle East or wherever. On the way back I pass three bewildered looking young man standing on a roundabout. Two are clearly Ethiopian and one says he’s Afghan. They just got to Calais and want to find the Jungle. I suddenly feel like an old hand: Get in.

We drive back along Route des Gravelines, passing a procession of refugees, mostly men and boys all walking in the Camp direction after a night spent trying to get  on trains  or lorries trying to get across the Channel.

The Ethiopians are from Dire Dawa. They are delighted to hear my husband comes from neighbouring Harar and that I know the town well. The Afghan boy cannot speak any English and stares solemnly out the window. I take them to the Pink Caravan where Toby lives and from which he does some distribution. There is a Sign up saying tents are for newcomers only. Toby says he will get them sorted.

Jungle Books

I spend the rest of the day trailing Tom. He is a Buddhist priest who gave up a career in acting to become a mental health outreach worker in Lewisham. Now he applies his case work skills to the jungle. He and Shizuka spent the morning helping a heavily pregnant woman relocate from a filthy tent in a satellite camp to a better one nearer the medical tent run by Medecins Du Monde. He wants me to meet Riyad, who we find at Jungle Books.

This is a small wooden construction brightly painted filled with donated books dictionaries and language training books. It was set up by Sediq, one of the Afghan refugees and a volunteer. Inside are three young men sitting reading. Next door is a larger meeting room with a wood burning stove. Riyad is a tall, thin, sad looking man who greets me with a gentle courtesy. He left his home, shop, wife and child in Sudan when the regular arrests, beatings and extortionate demands for money that were meted out for his failure to support the government, became unbearable. He simply wants to make a better life for his family. He speaks fluent English, and cannot imagine how he would adapt to any other culture. That’s why he will try to cross over to the UK.

Mustafa, who is sitting here with us, is taking a different route. He is a sociology student who was driven out of Darfur by the continuing conflict. His home has been completely destroyed. He had hoped to get to Britain but after one night at the Tunnel terminal, watching the police and dogs, seeing the injuries suffered by fellow migrants and hearing about the regular deaths that occurred, he decided … it’s not worth my life. It is thought that between one and three people die in the Tunnel every week. It is impossible to get accurate figures but everyone knows that a 16 year old Afghan refugee died a week ago. His body was spread over 400 meters of rail track. Mustafa has applied for Asylum in France, been finger printed and told to wait in the Jungle.

Bizarrely although the French Authorities regard the settlement as illegal, they still use it as a holding area for their own asylum seekers, without providing any assistance for them. Later in the evening I meet two more Sudanese who have both waited almost a year among these sand dunes for their asylum applications to be processed. They are now off to start new lives in Paris and Lyon. Riyad cannot bear the thought of remaining in France, not just because of the appalling conditions in the Camp but because of the way he is treated in town.

… People spit at you, they won’t speak to you or serve you in shops.


One man tells me of injuring his leg and being told by the police he would only be taken to hospital if he agrees to be finger printed here. He refused and crawled back to camp to get treatment from Medecins Du Monde who run a clinic in the camp. A few weeks ago a refugee was set upon by local people, stripped, beaten and left for dead. He managed to make it back to the camp naked but no one helped him along the way.

… We are human beings, we have not committed any crime, we just hope for a better life.


It is a refrain I will hear again and again over the next few days. People will endure the dirt, cold and squalor here in the hope of reaching a country which they are sure will treat them with respect and dignity as well as giving them the minimum necessities to start their lives. Warnings that life for asylum seekers and refugees in the UK is not a bed of roses fall on deaf ears.



I am struck by our capacity in extremis to both cooperate and create beauty.  Why not build on these virtues?


Monday 19 October

I have made friends with two Afghan boys: 12 year old Abdul and his 11 year old friend Jamal. Abdul is in jeans cut just below the knee, and a too thin jacket. Jamal is similarly, inadequately dressed. They were both at school in their home province of Kunduz in Afghanistan. Their village was shelled and everyone ran away and got separated.  Neither has any idea where their parents are, or if they are alive. They have been travelling together for the last two months.

… A good man helped us - walking, cars, train. We took a big ship from Turkey to Greece.  I want to go to England. I have an uncle there, in Manchester.
 

They have been here two days living in a half collapsed tent. Abdul hasn’t eaten today, so I take him to the ‘Ashram’ tent, one of a number serving free hot food. He tries the porridge but hates it, so eats some biscuits instead. There is a French Charity trying to help unaccompanied children. They visit regularly and offer them care and support and school in St Omer and also help in applying for French Asylum. Abdul begs me not to alert them. He is determined to go to England and find his relatives. He thinks he will try tonight. I ask him to give himself a few days at least to orient himself and eat some proper food.

…You could even learn better English, and get more information about the Asylum process.

This at least catches his interest. After leaving Abdul at the library, looking at grammars and dictionaries, and discussing English with a volunteer, I have tea with a Kurdish father and his 8 year old daughter Samira, in what is called the ‘family camp’.  They both tried the Tunnel last night but got turned back by police with pepper spray and dogs before they even got to the fence. The idea of this little girl trying to jump onto a train fills me with horror. The Father tells me this is no life here. They fled from Mosul when ISIS attacked - no life there either.

 

Around me other families are cooking over open fires. Smoke rises in the sunlight. Children play with donated scooters, an infant charges around unsteadily, watched by his mother, a baby cries. This family camp has only been here a few weeks, springing up in the Kurdish area on the Southern edge of the jungle, next to the Birch trees and beside the road. It looks pleasant enough now but what will happen when temperatures drop and rain puts out the fires around which people warm themselves?

 

I think I have got to grips with the geography of this place. People have mostly camped out next to neighbours of similar ethnicity.  So there is an Afghan area near the bridge with a large number of established shops and restaurants, a Syrian area on the dunes in the centre; an Ethiopian and Eritrean area around the Ethiopian Orthodox church whose walled compound emblazons ‘St Michael Jungle Church’. It is constructed out of wood and plastic, carpeted and lit with candles inside, and decorated with paintings.  The Sudanese area is along the Eastern border beside the road. Many of their shelters are large and well- constructed built around immaculately swept and organised compounds.St Michael's Jungle Church


The history is easily checked on Wikipedia. Asylum seekers and migrants have been camping unofficially in Calais since Sarkozy closed the Red Cross reception centre in 2002, provoking riots. Since then an ever growing number of new arrivals have established new encampments in various locations, only to have them bull dozed after a period of time.

 

 

This particular ‘jungle’, created on a landfill site that may well contain various forms of toxic waste, has existed since Spring of this year when there were thought to be approximately 1500 living here. The estimated population is now around 6000-7000. The majority are young men but there are growing numbers of women and children.  Some of these are staying in the Jules Ferry Centre on the Northern border of the dunes, where a  French Charity called La Vie Actif provides accommodation for them, along with  very limited number of hot showers and a soup kitchen for the wider community.

I tramp about in an amazed rage. How is it possible that on the borders of a north European town, there are some 6000 people living in conditions worse than those I have encountered with Somali refugees on the Ethiopian border, Pakistanis after a devastating earthquake, or Darfuris in the deserts of Northern Chad, one of the poorest countries in the World?  I pick my way through rivers of mud and between piles of uncollected garbage; try to help a teenage boy get water out of a blocked fawcett, water that is apparently positive for E coli, hold my breath while making use of portakabin loos that no one has cleaned for days, and step over human excrement lying 6 inches from tent doorways where children play. I can’t answer my question, but I do begin to see that something else is going on.

In between the muddy footpaths and bursting bin bags, people are building a community. Mosques are being constructed which shelter newcomers at night and create quiet clean warm space for anyone. Some of the Help Calais crowd funding has gone to building an Information Centre which will provide clear information on people’s rights and the asylum process. There is a Women and Children’s Centre, where ex-firewoman, Lisa, and other volunteers provide a quiet warm refuge. And there is an extraordinary flowering of creativity, paintings on the plastic walls of the tents, an art school. There is a theatre space in a Dome, where I sit and watched grown men work delightedly with pastels and paper. In the Jungle Books Library, English and French and other classes are held every day. This week Gil Galasso, a famous Maitre D’ from the Basque area is running a certified course in the Art of the Table. I sit watching Galasso in immaculate blazer and pressed trousers, show four fascinated young Sudanese how to make cocktails, match the right wine with cheese, and hold multiple plates. They all hope it will help them find jobs in France. Galasso’s own family migrated to France from Italy in the thirties, to escape hunger and find work, just like his students.  

Tuesday 20 October

This morning at the Bed and Breakfast I met an Iranian refugee with a blind daughter. He needed children’s clothes so we took him to the Warehouse run by L’Auberge Migrant, a long established Calais Charity. The warehouse is enormous and piled ceiling high with donations - mostly from Britain. Much is useful: warm clothing, tents and sleeping bags, shoes and bicycles, all desperately needed - although I am curious as to the thinking of those who give away smart handbags, high heeled shoes and dirty underwear. Distributions are getting organised with van runs to different parts of the Camp every day.

When I get back to the Camp I play chess at Jungle Books with Abdul and Jamal. They did not go to the Tunnel last night. They said they took my advice to learn more, but they are almost certainly going tonight.

It’s a wet, chilly, misty morning, a hint of things to come. I walk across the camp to the Dome. Musicians against Borders have brought musical instruments, and a crowd of Sudanese boys are banging drums and playing guitars. I ask my new Sudanese friend Adam to come and join us. Adam sings us an English pop song in a high tenor voice He invited me into his tent yesterday. He is 17 and left Darfur because of the fighting.

… I wanted a safe country where I could get an education. He spent three months getting to Libya where he worked on a building site for another three months to get the 1000 dollars he needed to take a boat with 450 others. In Italy he got on a train, hid from the police and made it to France. He has tried jumping onto the channel tunnel train some 19 times, but he got arrested a week ago and was put in jail. When he came up in front of a judge they told him as he was 17 he was free to go. So he is back here.

In the afternoon there is a Volunteers Meeting. They are getting organised. Eva has turned up with a large chart, drawn with marker onto two large pieces of cardboard. She has mapped all the sectors: sanitation, food, shelter, health care, arts and education and which groups are trying to address which needs in different parts of the camp. It is the Who, what, where, when chart beloved by humanitarian communities in emergencies. These volunteers - many of whom have never done anything like this before in their lives - have worked it out for themselves. They have also worked out that they need some sort of security guidelines and a code of conduct - no volunteers consuming alcohol or drugs on the site, for example: Volunteers getting shitfaced is completely inappropriate, someone says. There is a lively discussion on how female volunteers should dress. Tifa who is an Iranian and works in the women and children’s centre stands up in baggy jeans and a loose long sleeved top. Her long dark hair is neatly tied.

…This is the appropriate way for us to dress here. No miniskirts, no tight jeans, no long loose hair and we have to be careful about touching and hugging. It is not appropriate. For many people here these things are provocations and misunderstood, and we are not the ones who suffer the consequences, it is the women who live with these men. I understand what the men are saying and it’s not polite.

A woman from ‘No Borders’ disagrees: 

They are coming to Europe- they will be living amongst women like us. This is a chance to educate them.

… This is not the place to start, in a vulnerable community of 90% young men. There will be time for that. Right now our job is to protect any women living here from harassment.

… What about rape alarms?

… No woman refuge would use a rape alarm- it would be shameful to for them to do so.

Distribution is also a contentious subject. Mass distributions from the warehouse are efficient and safe, but do they reach the most vulnerable? Smaller distributions are needed, under the control of the communities themselves, but how to avoid stuff getting onto the black market? What about containers on site and allowing refugee leaders to distribute directly? And what about people who turn up at night? Where should they go?

There is a call for better coordination with the French NGO’s who have been working with the migrant community for 15 years, the sudden mass influx of British volunteers has taken everyone by surprise.  Notice boards at prominent spots are planned to help the ‘weekend warriors’ (kind people who drive across the channel for a day to drop off donations) orient themselves and avoid getting their mobiles stolen.

… This is all very good, a tall thin young man speaks up, and humanitarianism is essential for people’s day to day needs but what they want is to get to the UK and nothing we have discussed here addresses that…Blankets won’t solve the problem of police violence. Fascist rallies are planned in Calais.

I don’t completely agree. It’s clear to me, and to the French Authorities that the existence of the camp is in itself politically threatening, it challenges the whole organised asylum process and exposes its weaknesses. In fact this camp has much more in common with the Occupy movements or Greenham Common women’s peace camp than any humanitarian operation in which I have been involved. For one thing the volunteers have been much more successful at breaking down the usual barrier between givers and receivers. At many points in the meeting I had no idea if it was a volunteer or refugee voicing a view and when Tom chairing announced - if anyone wants to help and volunteer, they may. A volunteer is someone who helps other people. There is no distinction in this respect between volunteer and refugee – no one disagreed.

The question is where are the big Agencies? Alongside MDM, MSF is here. They have been laying down rubble in the mud for the last few days and dealing with toilets and garbage. They tell me they plan a hospital outside the camp boundaries, but the other big NGOS and UNHCR itself are noticeable by their absence.

… It’s completely political, Ben, volunteering in his gap year between Eton and Yale, tells me. He is fluent in French and goes to their coordination meetings.  The French authorities don’t want anything that attracts more migrants, but they don’t want it to be so awful it creates a scandal. Possibly in some way we are playing straight into their hands just preventing things tipping over the edge.

… You’re saying it might be better if there was a mass outbreak of disease or people froze to death?

… Of course not, but how do we actually get people out of this situation?~

.. Argue for HMG to come here and sort out asylum claims jointly with the French. That’s what the UN are asking them to do.

… It will never happen. The French don’t want this place to be a magnet for refugees all over Europe.

… They are already coming.

 

One of the first films I saw as a child was ‘A Tale of Two Cities’. There was an unforgettable scene where a child is killed under the carriage wheels of a French aristocrat. I remember wondering how could people live right next door to abject suffering and poverty and remain unmoved - how did you drive by it and over it? The consequences of such indifference were clear, the downtrodden took matters into their own hands. They pulled down the walls and gates and executed both the indifferent and those who were not indifferent, but had not done much to change things. Now the downtrodden at our own gates. All they want is to come in.

It’s dark and late. We sit round Raul’s fire. He and a handful of Kurdish friends share a large tent near the south entrance. We are always welcomed with tea. Raul is 25 and was studying literature in Mosul. He had spoken eloquently at the meeting. It was the first time he did such a thing and he is rightly very proud of himself. 

Wednesday 21 October

Some people at the volunteer meeting asked me to do a session on Volunteer self-care. So I turn up at 10 at the Ashram tent. Scott undoes the marquee door tape and lets me in. The volunteers are already preparing breakfast although at this time most camp residents are still asleep, having tramped three hours to the tunnel entrance, spent two to three hours climbing fences, evading police and dogs, and another three hours back walking during the night.

Scott tells me he just came for the day originally, then he got asked to lay a floor in this tent. Then they started cooking a few meals for volunteers, then it sort of grew and now they cook twice daily for hundreds of migrants. He stayed and organises. Outside it’s raining a light drizzle- but as the weather worsens these communal spaces will become vital. That’s if the French allow the camp to stand. Rumours abound. Yesterday’s local paper had a two page spread on how the mayor was calling in the Army to help deal with security. L’Auberge were quoted as suggesting the French army should learn a lesson from the Germans and help build a good camp.

And apparently there is a plan for a new camp. But it will only house the most vulnerable 1500, it will have fences and security around it and will mean the eviction of at least 400 camped out in the planned space. Besides how many will want to move into a new camp if they are not allowed out of it?

Meanwhile the jungle has petty crime, a black market, drugs, alcohol and violence, as in any community. I was having a coffee with Sediq in his restaurant in the Afghan area, when he was called because a young Sudanese man had gone to the MDM tent with a knife. Sediq got some other Sudanese to mediate and went and sorted it out without any casualties. What is remarkable here is how quickly fights can be de-escalated.  

Sediq has spent 5 years in Europe. He actually got asylum in Italy (after waiting three years) but there was no work. Then he spent a number of years in Norway until they told him there were no problems in Afghanistan and he should go back.

… I would love to go back. All I want to do is help my people. It’s impossible at the moment. And this is your fault. You made the problems in my country not me. Look around you - here are Pashtun, Tajik Uzbek, we all get on, but in Afghanistan, there are more than 42 countries with their guns, making things worse.

Sediq came to Calais in July to try and get to the UK to find work. He was in hospital for three weeks because of a beating. But now he has stopped trying to cross the Channel and puts his energy into helping his fellow countrymen.

…At the Voice of Refugees meeting last week I was discussing ‘How not to die. It’s essential they know that if you walk to the tunnel for three hours and your clothes are wet and you are tired, you will go under a train and you will die. If people really want to help they should provide a bus so that at least people are warm and dry before they make the attempt!

… I doubt the French would allow it - bussing refugees to the tunnel…

… Then people will go on dying. Sediq is not completely happy with volunteers. Some are only here for themselves. If you want a building its up in three days – if we want to make one it takes three months… and we know who needs clothes and shoes.

…I think that is why they plan to have people like you distribute.


Sediq tells me he has a plan of his own, to open a more expensive restaurant with good food, where Volunteers will eat, especially the ‘weekend warriors’. And he will encourage them to buy attractive cards marked up in a particular way. Then he will ask them to visit different areas of the camp and see who really needs help. They should give the card to the vulnerable person who can then return to the restaurant for a free meal.  So Sediq has worked out a neat system of assessing needs and providing food to the most vulnerable while using the time and energy of random volunteers. Brilliant.

Tents


I leave Sediq and go and look for Samira and her father as I promised a visit. But their neighbour says they did not come back from the train yesterday. Perhaps they have made it? Or taken another route? Or got hurt or detained? I don’t want to think about that.  I go and visit Liz at the red and orange Women and Children’s centre.

 

The Warehouse

Three teenage Afghan boys have come in and she is sorting out some stuff for them. One of them has cut his hand and lost his shoes trying to climb the Tunnel fence last night. We clean him up and find him shoes. One of them wants a bicycle and Liz promises to try and find one in the warehouse.

…it’s not about the product. She explains. I don’t mind if it’s a bicycle or a woolly hat,  if I can use the donations and spend some time here that’s less time with the Hashish smokers and other unsavoury types.


Liz has created one of the most comfortable spaces in the Camp. While we are sitting there a tearful Sudanese woman comes in. Liz puts on the kettle on the small gas ring. Last night it was a heavily pregnant Kurdish woman days way from giving birth. Her husband had already paid $7000 to a lorry driver to take her to the UK and then discovered it was a scam and the lorry was going South.

Liz saved us as well Susan, a volunteer tells me. She explains that she was working as a hotel manager.

… I had guests screaming at me that they did not get a good night’s sleep because the beds were lumpy. I had to do something more useful.

So when the migrant crisis hit the news in August she started an NGO called ‘Drive to humanity’, and drove to Calais with Tifa and 2 others, and a van full of donations.

… Except we hadn’t a clue how to distribute stuff or what to do. We decided we might as well start collecting rubbish with bin bags. We were all fighting amongst ourselves and crying. Then Liz came over and gave us a hug and asked if we wanted to help her. They had been helping her ever since.

Thursday 22 October

When I walk into the Camp in the morning someone asks me to go and see a sick four year old who arrived last night. They are a Kurdish family camped out inside the Ashram restaurant. In fact the four year old is running around munching biscuits with no evidence of fever or distress, so I prescribe porridge.

 

A team have come from Brighton who plan to bring across a school bus. They ask me to introduce them to some children who might benefit from such a project, so I take them to meet Abdul and Jamal, who now live in a caravan with another boy in the family area. Abdul is as friendly as always, if a bit dopey.   He explains politely why school is not for him:

… I have to get to England. I spend all night trying. It takes many hours to walk there, many hours to try and reach a train and if I fail many hours to walk back. In the day I have to sleep so I have no time for school.

New structures in the Jungle

I leave them to their assessment and head across the camp. The Jungle has changed dramatically in the last four days. The Information centre is now a roofed and plastic covered solid structure. MSF have cobbled the muddiest roads and cleaned some of the toilets. There is a whole batch of new caravans and new structures. Outside the Dome a truck is distributing long thin pieces of wood and a large number of refugees of all ethnicities are engaged in building simple shelters.
Music session inside the Dome


Inside the Dome another music session is going on. An Afghan sings and drums with astonishing beauty while another plays guitar. Meanwhile Sudanese boys sit clapping as one of them comes across shyly, picks up another drum and joins in.  Once again I am struck by our capacity in extremis to both cooperate and create beauty. Why not build on these virtues?

On my way back across the camp I meet another young Kurd who asks me to stop and chat. I think one of the most useful things volunteers do is just hang out and listen wherever and whenever. He wants me to see the broken tent in which he lives. I look at the wet soggy tunnel and tell him I am sure we can find something better, but he tells me not to worry about it as he is out every night trying to get on a train.

… I was a history student in Mosul until Isis came. Then I went to Turkey, but I was not a refugee so everything costs money, so I worked illegally in a factory, but you earn nothing. So I took a boat. If you agree to be captain its free, although of course you risk a seven year jail sentence- but we made it to Greece. Then Macedonia, then Hungary - they put us on a bus for Austria, and the Austrians are lovely people, wonderful! They gave us money and food and put us on a bus for Germany where we were in a Camp for three days. But I don’t speak any German, and in England there is work…

The words pour out. If you needed a selection process to identify the most resilient and most able refugees, one possible way is to ask them to find their way across either Eurasia and the middle East or Sub-Saharan Africa, risk their lives in the Mediterranean, and then place them in a toxic waste dump on minimal handouts, before offering further life threatening challenges in the form of avoiding electrocution while jumping onto trains, or freezing or suffocating in the back of a lorry. Indeed I am amazed these journeys have not yet been franchised as some kind of Reality TV show in which the public votes for who they want to come in.

As you see I don’t use the word migrant. In my five days here I have not met anyone who is not fleeing a war we started or failed to stop, a genocide we have failed to end, or human rights abuses to which we turn a blind eye. Yet what shines through is intelligence, courage, concern for one another and a deep admiration for Britain. I would welcome anyone of the people I have met: Rashid, Raul, Sediq, Abdul or Jamal as my neighbours.

The Jungle confronts us all with a very simple question: will we share the resources of this one world equitably, or will those of us with more firepower build ever higher fences to protect ourselves from those ‘marauding swarms’ trying to escape the poverty, violence and injustice that we are complicit in creating?

There are consequences to locking ourselves in a fortress. While I was sitting in Sediq’s Restaurant the other day I got talking to Tawab, one of the boys helping out. He was 19 and had left Afghanistan when he was 10. His parents had been killed when the Taliban bombed his village, and he ran away to avoid recruitment by them. After nine years of wandering in Europe, including 14 months in a camp in Italy, getting to the UK once and being deported, and spending three months in a French detention centre, he has asked the French government to help him go back to Afghanistan.

…I want to go back and help my country, I don’t care about money, I don’t care about Europe. I did not see any human rights here. And when I get home I will ask for 10 minutes on Afghan TV and I will tell them what I experienced here. And I will say yes there are some good people, but when Americans and British come to our country, without passports and with guns, we should kill them.

He sees the shock on my face.

… You don’t know human rights but you teach them in Afghanistan! Why do you think I left Afghanistan? Because if I had not they would have forced me to join a group- it was the only way to survive. There is no human rights there, the government fucks people up. It’s impossible to be a normal person in Afghanistan, the Taliban is everywhere and now we have ISIL. In Italy I was in a camp for 14 months- but what can I do with Asylum in Italy when there is no work, no housing no benefits, and yes I know it’s the same in the UK, I know that now, that is why I am going back…

And tell me this? How can you come and work in my country, when I cannot work in yours? How can you come with a Kalashnikov and no passport when I am not allowed in yours? Your Soldier: He is born in England, he comes to my country, he walks my roads and mountains and villages with his Kalashnikov, and we give him tea, we give him everything.  I don’t have a Kalashnikov. I am not like you. I am just a donkey, Afghan, Iraqi, Syrian, we are all kicked. You see me as a dog, but I am a human being and all humans are the same. We understand the law, just like you, we don’t break laws.

So now, when I get home I will go on TV and tell people: when you get to Europe, they fuck you up, they beat you and put you in prison, they hate you, so if they come here, you have to kill them…

I cannot think of anything to say to make it better.

 

I am black I am proud

 

 

*All refugee names are changed to protect personal identity

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Lynne Jones

 

Lynne Jones is a child psychiatrist, relief worker, and writer. She has spent much of the last 20 years establishing and running mental health programs in areas of conflict or natural disaster including the Balkans, East and West Africa, South East Asia, the Middle East, Central America, Haiti and most recently the Philippines. Her field diaries have been published in the London Review of Books and O, The Oprah Magazine, and her audio diaries broadcast on the BBC World Service. Her most recent book is Then They Started Shooting: Children of the Bosnian War and the Adults they Become (Bellevue Literary Press, 2012)