Monday 23rd November 2015
Dear Mr Cameron,
I live in Guernsey and I run a charity that works all over the world after natural disasters.
Earlier this summer the news of the people who died in the back of a lorry in Europe who were trying to flee their country in fear of their lives, sparked a light in the back of my conscious. I had been aware of the growing amount of refugees coming from various countries but had not realized until then it was morphing into a massive issue.
Those who sadly lost their lives on that tragic road trip can only have been so desperate to find solace that they risked such a dangerous journey.
I went with another Islander, to see our Chief Minister here in Guernsey, Jonathon Le Tocq, in early September, to ask if Guernsey was going to be involved in the discussions about what Europe was deciding to do about the Refugee crisis – he informed us that he was speaking with Senator Gorst in Jersey and would in due course be speaking with the Home Office, we felt somehow a little better.
However, as the news coming across the water had been getting worse and worse I felt compelled to go and see the Jungle in Calais for myself. I went with another volunteer in late October for the weekend and we were horrified with what confronted us. The filth and terrible conditions were staggering – and bear in mind I have been in the worst slum in Haiti, a third world country – and here we were standing in a 1st world country confronted by what can only be described as subhuman conditions.
We stood and listened to the stories fromvarious people who had fled their countrywith tears in our eyes – the stories were all different but at the same time the same – ones of pain, fear and oppression, violence and aggression – the stories were told by teachers, nurses, lawyers, one man owned a driving school – not once did we feel threatened or uncomfortable – well we did feel uncomfortable but that was because we couldn’t believe this was happening on our doorstep – we were ashamed. We left in silence and I confess to nearly breaking down with the pain of listening to these desperate stories.
I am very aware the Jungle is classed as an illegal camp – HOWEVER it is there and no one can deny that – there are people there, men women and children who are compromised daily – the winter is drawing in and I am 100% convinced there will soon be news reports of death by hypothermia – then we will have serious blood on our hands. The toilets are overflowing and the water is not safe – there is human excrement everywhere as there are not enough facilities for them.
The rain and cold winds blowing directly from the sea at Calais, are relentless and the temperatures at night are already well below what a normal human being should be sleeping in – outside in a flimsy tent! Goodness only knowswhat they will be in 3 to 4 weeks time.
If dogs were kept and had to sleep in amongst excrement and they had contaminated water to drink there would be an outcry and prosecutions would be forthcoming!
Where are the big charities?
Why is the Jungle busy with individuals who feel so compelled to act? I can tell you why – because they are horrified that this situation is allowed to continue and as they don’t see any professionals in the camp they are moved to go themselves – some of them pensioners no less! In all my years as an emergency aid worker I have never seen the like before.
I was led to believe that Britain and France were going to, at the very least, get together to build some decent structures to get this ever-growing band of desperate folk inside out of the wind and rains for the winter.
What has happened to that proposal?
It needs to be now, not in a few weeks time as some will die before then. It seems you have spent a huge sum on a fence to try to keep them out instead.
There is no denying that they will simply not just go away if they are ignored – I am convinced we have a moral duty to help them as fellow human beings in extremis.
I have been so very moved by what I saw, I asked for volunteers and they rushed to offer their services!
I took a team of volunteers totaling 21 there for a week last week – included in the team were 6 professional emergency medics from Spain, an architect, builder, a carpenter, a welder and other wonderful people. We built 2 kitchens from timber – one for a lovely lady from the UK who has come into camp and cooks a hot meal once a day for 1,000 people – she is a shining example of the compassion that is needed so very badly. We are proud to support her going forward with food supplies, as the people need to be fed hot food daily. We helped another kitchen too, again run by people from the UK. We took supplies, as do many others from the Uk to help the men, women and children too. They are the angels in this horror story and horror story it is, as mark my words, if this humanitarian crisis is not resolved soon, there will be an explosion and this time it will be not made with gunpowder but human anguish and pain.
It is pitiful to witness and makes my heart physically hurt, I am truly ashamed to be British and seemingly condone this situation! I listened to the most tragic stories of government brutality of young boys whose parents were shot in the forest in Hungary. I heard of professional men who had been beaten so badly by the Government forces, they will suffer for the rest of their lives. We saw so many injuries at our medical clinic from sheer brutality from the Government forces it made us all gasp in horror. And this is when they are in Europe never mind the terrible hideous atrocities they have experienced and are fleeing from in their own countries!
I personally witnessed an ordinary volunteer be subjected to totally unacceptable level of ‘body search,’ again by the Government forces, it was horrific. Where has decency and compassion gone?
This is not France’s problem alone it is a world problem – our world. It is a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions and will be even worse when deaths occur because we look the other way.
I implore you to make some positive decisive and fast decisions to help not only keep these damaged people alive in this coming winter, but to help them going forward too.
I await your urgent reply please.
Sarah Griffith MBE
Founder of Bridge2