Rule number one for the portable toilets: Always knock before opening the door. Pray that what you find behind the door is not too overwhelming. Hold the door to be protected from wind and other people. Touch as little as possible. Hold your breath. Cover your face with whatever you can.
Rule number 1 for the tents: Take care that no one follows you. Hands, hands all over. You’d better not walk alone at night. You’d better not be a woman, actually, you probably shouldn’t be there at all. But there you are. People calling you. People whistling. People laughing. Some of them are nice. Some are not.
Trash spread all over the ground, muddy clothes, thefts, long lines to get a ridiculous amount of food, different ages and different languages, new friends, weirdos, alcohol, drugs. You don’t want to bring your 4-month-old daughter there.
It could easily be the beginning of a story from one of the festivals you’ve been to this summer.
It is not.
Yes, there is a first aid tent. There is a Welcome Caravan, but it ran out of donations and is no longer open. There are also many other facilities, more or less working.
There are also schools. One burnt down a few days ago, along with the shelters around it that housed 14 refugees from Sudan who looked after it. They were given temporary tents, and then told by the police to take them down.
“…the day before… [the police] came and said it was not a school because there were sleeping bags. They forced the boys to move everything away that was a sign of sleeping/living and not education/school. That day they allowed one tent to remain because there were tables and chairs (signs that it was a school). They were merciless and some of them were disgustingly racist in the comments and threats they used,” said a witness of the police raid.
And there were other fires. A rape last night. Lots of fights, overcrowding and tension. Police raids and violence. Seveso area: how can we forget with the smell of the neighbouring Tioxide and GrafTech chemical factories wafting through the night air?
An average of 100 tear gas cans have been launched every day by the police since last October, state the French police union.
You go by choice to a summer festival. None of the people stranded in Calais aimed to live in the Jungle. No festival lasts years. No festival is this inhospitable, no festival is built on the mistreatment of human beings.
From the first sounds of the muezzin to the night long sound of sirens, everyone hates the line.
The line to get food, where you find there is not enough for everyone to go to sleep with a full stomach.
The line to get the cleanest toilet, while rats happily run free through living spaces.
The line between being helped and feeling useless, the line between surviving and living.
The line between France and the UK.
If the state wants to put an end to the horrific conditions in which people have been living, it is at this last line it should look, not at restaurants, shops nor shelters, and not even at the toilets. It is that line that people want to cross, and it is at that line we all should start.
By erasing it.