Written by Matteo, Clapton Ultras – Brigata Italiana
Describing the camps of Dunkirk and Calais is not easy. Back home today (11 December 2015) it is probably harder, the emotions and the sensations I felt are not as strong as they were on site. And this makes things more complicated.
When I was there, delivering food and sleeping bags, I could only feel the importance of what I was doing. The smile of the residents when they receive something they really need, such as a decent pair of shoes to replace the rotten ones they were using so far or a clementine, is something that is impossible to explain in a paragraph or two.
Even if I do not have skills to save life – I am not a doctor – or to build proper accommodation – I am not a builder – I could feel the weight of the significance of those simple actions for those people at that moment. These sensations make you go ahead, the only thing you want to do is use all the hours you have once you are in France.
Then, back in UK, all the positive feelings started to mix with anger and disappointment. I thought that without the volunteers these people would be completely abandoned. On site, there is no sign of the French government or of the European institutions. All the talk about a unified Europe, about being European citizens is just talking, hollow rhetoric used to fill newspapers and essays. How is it possible that few of the most “developed” countries in the world such as Germany, France, UK or Italy cannot take care these of people? After having traveled for more than two months using all the modes of transports, mostly dangerous or illegal, is living in a muddy tent the only reward for these people?
The reality is that solidarity is a word too hard to pronounce and to be put in practice. Many people prefer to hide behind word such as “invasion” and chose to “defend the integrity of their habits” by voting for a racist party such as the National Front (the highest percentage at the recent regional vote in France is in the region of Calais). Putting a cross on a voting slip for these parties is easier than talking to refugees, listening to their stories and understanding the reasons why they are leaving their countries.
Racism is a a barrier that people build in their mind to avoid to making an effort for somebody else, to avoid understanding that suffering, pain, death and sacrifice are the same for all the human beings, no matter their country of origin or their religion.
Follow @dulwich2dunkirk for updates on the situation in the camps and how you can help