“THERE ARE NOT ONE BUT TWO CHICKENS DEPENDING HOW YOU SEE IT.” - INTERSUBJECTIVITY AT THE CALAIS BORDER
CALAIS, JANUARY 18/19, 2018
It's been a week when the politics around the refugees in Calais have played a significant role in defining the future for both the displaced refugee population and the organisations working with them. As yet there is no clear idea as to how these negotiations between the U.K and France will play out, but there is lots of false information and many unhelpful rumours. Meanwhile the day-to-day lives of those affected are a painful struggle to survive.
We met our friend in the homeless hostel and were also joined by another familiar face, - conversations panned across the subject of politics and philosophy. A philosophical stance was taken towards the complex and nonsensical situations emerging from asylum claims, with the comment; “everything that has a beginning has an end”. We were told a Sudanese joke about philosophy and chickens... culminating with the punch line “there are not one but two chickens depending on how you see it”. This led to a lively discussion about intersubjectivity and how with one situation two people are able to view it so differently... These discussions resonated throughout the day.
We arrived at the day centre which filled up quickly, around the map tablecloth there was a slow and steady flow of creativity. Houses were built carefully, secure but so secure that the only way into the house was through the window. Some beautifully formed animals were gently presented to a member of the team, a water buffalo, a horse and a foal, carefully sculpted from plasticine. A dining table was made and set for a solo figure eating spaghetti, with a postcard providing a sunset background behind him. The maker noted that he had serendipitously placed the model on the map of Latvia -an outstretched arm reaching to a land afar. “Next time” the maker said, “I will have dinner in the UK.”
All organisations working at the distribution felt that the refugee population was slowly growing again in the area. People seemed anxious, there was a long queue, waiting in line for food long before it arrived. Yesterday the winds were bitter, food was more limited; this is tragic given the cold, police harassment and long dark nights.
A young man built a tower from the colourful rods, the map on the side of the Médecins du Monde van glowed bright, inviting an audience, chatting about routes, some for the first time seeing the huge distance they had travelled.
Another young opened up about his heritage, a brave decision to trust us as strangers. He was determined he had made the right choice to try to get to the UK, “This is our situation” he said “and we have to bear it”.
The morning Sécours Catholique meeting was focused on politics, loss and displacement with the eternal question being asked, “how do we best support people in this situation?” This question was raised again in the safe house.
The safe house was quiet, which gave a chance to be reflective with members of the team there, discussions were had about the complexities of providing temporary shelter. Thoughts were around the sad losses of young lives, but also those here in the moment. How may we enable a space where these young people can share their stories? How may help be offered once they reach a place of safety? The stories of unaccompanied minors need to be heard, they may be of journeys that are not quite complete, and are often difficult, dangerous and high risk.
Whilst it may be true all beginnings have an end, for those refugees searching to find a place, the order of beginning, middle and end are not a straightforward narrative.