Conversations from Calais #4

This conversation followed a lengthier discussion in which J. was worried about a letter he had been given following his arrest the previous night. After explaining that he was in no worse a situation than he had been in prior to the arrest, and if anything he was lucky that he hadn’t been deported or detained, he was keen to learn about the asylum process in the UK. I did my best to answer this for him, without encouraging him, and as I was doing so B. appeared asking about the asylum process in Canada. I apologised that I wasn’t clued up at all as to how Canada operated (I’m barely sure about the UK) but it led to an unsettling conversation about the lengths to which people will go to in pursuit of happiness. (If anybody know anything about anyone who has made this or a similar journey, please let me know).

J. and B.

B: I want to go to Canada, not UK.

J: I would prefer Canada too. Easier asylum process, I think? 

I couldn’t say, I have no idea, sorry.

B: Yes, I have heard it is better. Less fascists and less chance of getting deported. 

I doubt that’s true, but they certainly have a more liberal-seeming image at the moment.

J: Yes, less chance of getting deported, especially for Afghans. 

How would you even get to Canada? How do people get there?

J: Through Liverpool. 

Through Liverpool?

J: Yes, you pay a truck driver, hide in their lorry, go on a cargo ship to Canada. 

Bloody hell. How long does that take?

B: 20 days. Maybe longer. I don’t know. 

And food? And water?

J. and B. shrug.

J: Maybe there is food in the containers. Or someone might be kind on the ship. But you don’t want to make it too obvious.

Please, please stay safe. 

B: Ah, Canada, very good country…


Winter is definitely on the horizon in Calais. Leaving the boys in the rain at the end of a long day as the night falls is becoming increasingly harder to do, when you know that they’re off to sleep under a bridge or tree, if at all. 5 more minutes! 5 more minutes! But there are nice moments, too. A gang of local kids come by with a football most evenings – one of whom can’t be older than 6 – but they more than hold their own. Endless games of dominos in the van while the rain batters the windows. French lessons for those going through the French asylum process (yet still sleeping on the streets), and doodling. One man writes Afghanistan in Pashto, shading in the letters in the colours of the flag. Another doodles a flower on his hand, announcing that he used to work in a cosmetic shop in London and knows his way around lipstick. A third, a teenage boy, writes “I HET MY LIFE” above the radio in the front of the van. A constant reminder that, for all the sweeter moments, people here are really suffering.


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