“Even if they have to shoot me, I won’t go,” said Zahir* from Afghanistan, who’s been in the Jungle for 11 months. “I just don’t know what to do.” He later said.
Doctors of the World have worked in Calais since 2003, and experienced many failed evacuations and demolitions, which have only caused more suffering. Despite this closure beginning encouragingly calmly, we're concerned that frustrations are rising, and soon police will likely intervene to remove those refusing to leave. A brutal expulsion will inevitably worsen refugees’ already deteriorating mental health.
“I won’t go until they drag me out,” a regular Syrian attendee at our psychosocial tent told us. “Why would I volunteer to leave when I don’t want to stay in France? It’s UK only for me.”
So far, only those who’ve volunteered to leave the camp have left on buses to centres across France, but the authorities have already admitted that police “don’t want to use force but may have to intervene” for those who take their chances and stay in the camp.
Already, tensions are beginning to rise with scuffles between confused refugees breaking out in the queues, though nothing that would deem necessary the hundreds of police armed with batons and tear gas surrounding the area. Confusion seems to be the main source of frustration, and on Tuesday unaccompanied minors had so many differing orders barked at them, many had no idea where to go before it was announced that the registration had closed at around 4pm.
While the adults and families are evacuated, the unaccompanied children should be moved to a secure area within the camp to sleep on bunk beds in heated containers while the UK assess their eligibility to claim asylum. However, the children were largely left in the dark about how to register on Monday, and registration, which started off well, soon turned chaotic again on Tuesday. This begs the question: where are the bewildered minors sleeping while the authorities sort themselves out?
Our teams found many youngsters wandering around looking lost and disappointed. We helped wherever we could, though we are also suffering from limited information.
“I want to go to the container camp, I damaged my knee on the motorway trying to get to the UK two weeks ago and it hurts to get in and out of my tent,” Isaac*, a 17 year old boy told us, while leaning on crutches. “I applied last week to go to my family in the UK, but I haven’t heard anything.”
Isaac left Eritrea without telling anyone. “Family and friends would be the worst people to tell. It would put them in great danger.”
So Isaac made the perilous journey alone, and has lived in the Jungle for two months. With our help, he made it into the secure camp, but is still far from answers to the questions that affect his life.
The poor planning and lack of communication could severely impact upon the mental health for those already close to the edge. It’s disgraceful and totally unnecessary for this process to add to the trauma refugees are already struggling with, and the coming days are likely to get worse.