Calais Reality

We rolled into our evening distribution point in Calais with the sun blazing over the field. As the Daily Mail so lovingly complimented us last week (forgive me if I don’t link to the article), the “party atmosphere” was in full swing. Small fires burning peacefully, a generator blasting music and a perfectly synchronised group of Afghan men dancing in a circle – a really, really beautiful moment. A queue formed slowly as we began serving our usual rice, curry and salad, stretching back to over 100 people with more waiting around the field. The eye of the storm.

Fast forward an hour and a half and I’m standing two metres from a young man who has been forced to the ground by three police officers and surrounded by about five CRS officers who are attempting to prevent photos and videos being taken of the situation. The boy’s crime? Spitting in the police officer’s face.

“Ah, so he deserved it then?”

Well, no. A group of teenage boys had somehow gotten their hands on some alcohol, and some were pretty drunk. A common problem with drink, whether you’re sleeping on the streets of Calais, in your local pub or at a family wedding, is that it can lead to a small and unnecessary drunken brawl. Two teenagers began arguing, one of them threw an (admittedly enormous) rock at the other and many people spent the next five minutes trying to calm them down before the police caught on to any trouble.

The police eventually sniffed out that there was a problem, and swept through the field in an attempt to disintegrate the fight. So far, so good, until they stopped a boy who hadn’t been involved in the slightest and requested his papers, which he didn’t have on him. The boy naturally got angry that the police were picking on him instead of people who were actually fighting, and the argument escalated to the point that he spat in the officer’s face, leading to his arrest. A completely avoidable situation all round.

Relations between the police and refugees in Calais are extremely tense and volatile. Please give RRDP’s report on refugees’ experience in Calais a read to understand what people are dealing with on a daily basis in this small town.

Donate sleeping bags to refugees living rough in Calais here. Sleeping bags are routinely pepper sprayed by the police to prevent them being used again, so there is a constant need for a steady supply.

Check out Refugee Community Kitchen’s current food needs here, and for more information on volunteering, email If you can spare any time at all, please do come and get involved.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Veronica Lopez says:

    Dear Chris,

    I am part of the Forced Migration and Human Trafficking Initiative at the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University and we are working on a Project for refugees in Europe. If you could please help us we would really appreciate it. We would need more information about NGO’s working in refugee camps. Specifically, we would like to know more about the coordination tasks between NGO’s and lacks of coordination if there are present too. Meaning, how do different NGO’s, working in the same camp, work to coordinate with each other. And also, what improvements could be made in order to facilitate the NGO’s work and this coordination.
    Thank you indeed.

    Best Regards,
    Veronica Lopez Trensig


    1. Hello. Sounds really interesting but I’m not sure if I’m the best person to ask. If you contact Help Refugees using the form on their website ( they will be better placed to help your research. They operate all over Europe, whereas I could only really help on a micro-level in Calais (and even then, I’m not personally involved in inter-association coordination, and I would only be able to offer my personal view). Thanks, Chris


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