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Visiting the 'Jungle' camp in Calais as a student volunteer: Personal reflections

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It was while studying for my Master's in Media Practice for Development that I went to the 'Jungle' camp in Calais as a volunteer. I visited twice – once in November 2015 and again in January 2016. I had lived and worked with displaced people in Nepal after finishing school, and then visited Palestine to conduct research for my undergraduate dissertation in January 2015. I guess the motivation for going to Calais in November 2015 was a combination of empathy and fascination. I had heard drastically different media reports about the number of people in Calais, the infrastructure of the 'Jungle' camp and the conditions for the inhabitants. But in many ways from the outset the trip seemed a moral paradox. Would my presence benefit 'the refugees', or was I embarked on some kind of misery tourism? This was a question I discussed a lot with the friends I travelled with over the short period of time we spent there. When we arrived on the first trip, we discovered through the leaders of the volunteer infrastructure already working there that the French government had sanctioned the demolition of an area of the camp closest to the highway leading to the port, so as to be better able to stop people attempting to break through the recently built £1.2 million fence commissioned by the British government. In the camp it was exhausting work; we had to explain to the people from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Egypt, among other countries, that their makeshift homes were set to be demolished and they needed to relocate to another area of the camp. The weather was bitterly cold. The camp smelt of burning rubbish and Middle Eastern food being prepared in the many makeshift restaurants.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Email: [email protected]

Publication date: March 2017

This article was made available online on January 19, 2017 as a Fast Track article with title: "Visiting the ‘Jungle’ camp in Calais as a student volunteer: Personal reflections".

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