We arrived at the hostel to meet with our friends. The weather was changeable, a thunderstorm on our arrival, - which turned into blazing sun and then back into rain. This seemed to reflect the mood, there were pockets of conversation, which had hope, warmth and memories. The ‘Jungle’ was fondly remembered, the sense of community which gave a sense of safety. Our friends reminisced about how small communities would work together, some staying in camp and cooking a meal for those who did not succeed in crossing over to the UK.
There were discussions around migrating birds, about which were indigenous and which birds were deliberately brought to different countries by man. This topic felt poignant, as some in the group were awaiting papers to stay in France, while others were still keen in trying to migrate further north. There was a sense of being unsure as to which way to go.
The heat developed over the day into a humid muggy fog. The Day Centre was full, with about 150 refugees. The table with the map felt like an oasis, people came in hot and exhausted, restrictions are still in place meaning there is only limited water available. A large group developed and people sat and built strong stable houses. More than a few had been living in the UK. One man described how he had lived happily there for 11 years, since the age of 14. Deported and sent back to his country of origin, he explained how much he had lost - his house, his work, his girlfriend and his pets, a dog, and a cat called Chanel.
Others sat and shared pictures of family, their grandpa, a cousin, a little sister, all somewhere where they were not. Many thought of their mothers, a few men expressing their concern about not wanting to worry their mothers ensuring when they speak to them they don’t reveal the harshness and injustice they experience on a day to day basis.
The morning began with a meeting at Secours Catholique; there was an update about the court ruling, deciding if giving
people the basic human right of water and access to showers and toilets was allowed. Because an appeal by the prefecture is being made to the high court, no substantial lifting of restrictions can happen until this is duly processed. There were reports of an increasing number of young girls being seen at the food distribution points. And very thoughtful consideration was given as to how best to support their needs.
At the Day Centre some painted, there was a lovely interaction between an Indian Volunteer and a newly arrived Ethiopian young man. They both looked together at the map and discussed their respective journeys. “One world, one people” one of the young men sitting opposite said.
The safe house was full and about 12 young men joined us. The table was gently cleared and slowly a number of houses were built on the map. There was a playful engagement with the bricks with shelters emerging and characterful architecture developed. In the background some Ethiopian music playing, a love song, a Ballard and a rap, “this band is playing in Paris tomorrow", one young man said. This reminded us of how these boys, like all young people, just want a space where they are free to hang out safely and listen to music.