What does it mean? But you are from the UK, why don’t you know? Where can I go? I have family. Macron came. Are they opening the border? There are buses to the UK? Why are the police photographing us? Why are there so many people here? The border is open, yes? Where did the bambinos go on the buses? Why won’t you tell us where the buses are? What can I do?
Ahh, the Sandhurst Treaty. Words, words, words. Words…they travel fast. Often, not the right words. This week, definitely not the right words. There are no right words, because nobody has a goddamn clue. Not me, nor the volunteers, nor the refugee community, nor the police, nor border control, nor the smugglers, nor the prefecture, nor Macron and May themselves.
Words. They mean little to the unaccompanied kids on the streets of Calais, until proven otherwise. They mean even less to the rest, the men who can’t prove their age or the boys with cousins but no immediate family, everyone sleeping rough and battered by Calais’ winds.
We drive round in circles, trying to catch each other out. Threats, aggression, sexual harassment. Fifty men crowd round 3 volunteers, wanting to know the answers that we can’t give. The state stands back, throwing around accusations but providing no solutions. Or providing solutions without explaining them. Or explaining solutions to themselves but not to those who need the protection. Teargas is sprayed at the warehouse gate out of spite and I get it in my eye while driving. It streams down my face.
A tattered sign hangs over the distribution point, ‘OPEN THE BORDERS’ emblazoned across it. A boy asks excitedly if that means that the border is open. We are sorry to disappoint him that if such an unprecedented, momentous and unlikely thing ever were to happen, it probably wouldn’t just be written on a bedsheet. Or maybe it would. Maybe, it’s better not to advertise these things. Maybe the border’s just an illusion, propped up by broken policing systems and nationalistic pride dragging its nails down a blackboard, screeching out old messages, while we all run around playing dress up.
Maybe I’m also just screeching out old messages. Yup, it’s still shit, just some different faces. And many of the same. Maybe, nobody cares.
Numbers have swollen this week. Words, again. There is fake news and then there is fake news. No, Canada is not coming to pick refugees up from France. No, I can guarantee that the Sandhurst Treaty will not lead to the UK opening its border. But where are the centres to help people with family reunification? Where can I be identified for Dubs? How long will it take? Words and empty promises. May clinging onto her deteriorating strength and stability, Macron failing to please everybody, Boris building bridges whilst burning them. Brexit means, what exactly?
I digress, but then it’s all intertwined really. It’s all words and no actions while we work our way through this. Don’t tip the balance. Don’t tip the balance. Suppress, suppress, suppress. Ignore the screams of our fellow humans.
9th January and yet another death on Calais’ roads.
Biniam Laine Haile, 26 years old, Eritrean.
The driver might not even know that he killed him. Or he might, and drove on regardless. Three hit and runs in as many weeks. When your life is so extinguishable that it can be wiped and left to rot at the side of the road by a truck driver who doesn’t even know what he’s done. Trade thunders on, Coca Cola and Marlboro lights make their way to ten Tesco Expresses near you. The lorry driver sits in the truck driver’s lounge on the ferry, digging into his discounted fry up. Biniam and Abdullah lie dying at the side of the road, Alan has his legs amputated, Jabal is crushed under a toppling truck.
“We will see time and time again how a dramatic increase in the collective power and ostensible success of our species went hand in hand with much individual suffering.” Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens
For more thorough analysis on the Sandhurst Treaty and what it means or doesn’t mean:
A new website and blog set up for refugees in Calais to share their own voices.
- Includes a platform for “DJ Jungle”, check out his first track Humanity here.
In the aftermath of a suicide attack on Save the Children in Afghanistan, this research study explores the current situation in the country, which has recently been upgraded to “active warzone” and yet is still deemed a safe country by the EU.
An enjoyable article about all the gifts the UK should loan France in exchange for the Bayeux Tapestry.