It’s been beautiful to see all the messages and acts of support coming in over the last couple of weeks, from the UK and from all over Europe. We are pretty well swamped with emails offering donations of materials or time, so apologies if we don’t get back to you immediately, but please do keep ’em coming.
What we’ve seen in recent weeks is how a crisis, if that’s what it is, brings out both the very worst and the very best in people. Solidarity is our weapon, and it is stronger than their barbed wire and fear.
A lot of the same questions keep coming up when people write to us, so below are a few common answers.
Q: Are you receiving donations of materials for migrants in Calais?
Humanitarian aid will not end this “crisis”. Only getting rid of this vicious border will do that. The situation in Calais is a deeply political one, and we believe the response to this goes further than the provision of blankets. We do not see it as our role to manage donations or be involved in distributions, there are many humanitarian organisations and individuals operating in Calais who can do this. There details are included below.
Q: Are you receiving donations of money?
Yes. You can send money to either our French account (in Euros) or UK account (in Sterling). All the details are on this page. Unfortunately we don’t do paypal.
Q: Can I come and help out for a few days?
We are not able to host or make introductions for new people who are just coming for a short visit. It takes up a lot of time and energy to introduce people to what is a complex situation, and we just don’t have enough to go round. Also, we are cautious, because we know there are lots of good-hearted people who want to do something but we’re also very wary of the danger of the Calais jungle becoming a kind of safari park for poverty tourism.
Of course, we don’t have a monopoly on Calais solidarity, and it is totally up to you if you want to come to the Jungle under your own steam, and organise your own activities and accommodation. There is plenty of room to pitch a tent, and people are generally very welcoming. Assuming, that is, that you’re not shoving a camera into their face or otherwise acting like a prick.
Q: Can I come and volunteer with you for a longer period?
We are not a volunteer organisation. We are interested in hearing from people who want to join our struggle, if you can make a minimum commitment of a week. (Of course, maybe you find once you get here that it’s not for you, in which case that’s fine, it’s the intention that matters.) However, please note: we are not a charity, NGO or aid organisation. We are a political group with a strong position against all borders (see this earlier post), and against other systems of oppression including capitalism, colonialism, racism, male domination, and the state. We want to work with people who share these views. We are looking for comrades rather than volunteers.
If you do not feel close to these ideas, there are other associations who are doing very good humanitarian work in Calais and these might be a better place for you to go. Here are three that we recommend. They are French, but all have English speakers.
L’Auberge des Migrants. A local association who do a lot of good work in the jungle.
Secours Catholique. Catholic charity that provides many services to migrants in Calais.
Medecins du Monde. “Doctors of the World”, who are organising healthcare in the jungle, and also other social services.
Q: Do you want people to come and take photographs in the jungle?
No. We don’t. There are a lot of photographers in the jungle already, and thousands of images out there now, and we don’t see a great need for more. We will not act as an introduction service for photographers and journalists.
The one use of photography we see as very relevant is recording police violence. But this needs to be done with great care and we prefer to work with people we know and trust already for this, or who are introduced to us by trusted people.
If you do come to the jungle with a camera, please be respectful. Don’t photograph people without express consent. And be careful. Maybe you are very respectful, but the majority of the photographers around are not. They repeatedly photograph and film people without bothering to ask permission, and we have seen photographers barging into people’s tents, refusing to delete photos when asked, etc. As a result of this many people are starting to get very pissed off with photographers and journalists around, so you may not get a friendly reception.
Q: Can I interview you or help you get press coverage?
Unlikely. We rarely give interviews to the UK media. We may consider a particular proposal if you send us a detailed email explaining what your project is. We will definitely not talk to the Mail, Telegraph, Express or Murdoch owned press. In general, we prefer to express ourselves directly in our own words, such as through this website. Please feel free to quote anything you like from here.
Q: Can I do something where I am?
Yes, absolutely. For instance, we are glad to hear from people who want to organise info evenings, film showings, stalls, fundraisers, solidarity actions, etc., to spread the word about what is going on.
But maybe even more importantly, we encourage you to fight against the border regime where you are.
The border is not just here in Calais. If you are in the UK, not far from you migrants who have arrived from Calais and other places are being imprisoned indefinitely in detention centres, including the prison for families with children run by G4S and Barnardos. Or attacked by Home Office “enforcement” bullies in dawn raids at home, at work or in street checks. Or made destitute under the vicious law that refuses asylum claimants even the right to work. Or threatened with homelessness by a new law against “illegal” immigrants renting houses.
Here are just a few links to groups we know of in the UK, or search for others near you. Or take action yourself in your own way.
Antiraids Network: resisting immigration raids in London
Unity Centre: solidarity with migrants in Glasgow
SOAS detainee support: London students supporting people in detention
Right to Remain: campaigning for people facing deportation
Movement for Justice: organising with people in Yarl’s Wood and other detention centres
No Borders Leeds