A team of King’s students travelled to Calais to volunteer in its refugee camp earlier this week.
Students spent three days in ‘The Jungle’ with the charity ‘Care4Calais.’ Medical students provided check-ups for the camp residents, whilst others helped to distribute aid, clean the camp and sort donations in the charity warehouse.
The Jungle currently houses approximately 6,000 refugees, with local charities the only source of assistance for the residents. The building of permanent structures is banned by the French government, so many live in cramped tents or at best flimsy wooden structures.
Conor O’Halloran, a second year Physics student, visited the camp in September 2015 and was shocked by the harrowing conditions the people were living in. It inspired him to take a group of students to volunteer in the camp so he set up an organisation called ‘King’s 2 Calais’ (K2C).
O’Halloran said: “The purpose of the trip was to humanise the refugees and convey the awful conditions they are currently living in for the sole purpose of surviving. We aimed to not only have a direct impact on the lives of those living in the Calais camp, but also to have a continuous impact on refugees through inspiring others to volunteer and take action into their own hands.”
The students managed to raise over £1000 for refugees before embarking on their trip. Their Facebook page describes how “‘King’s 2 Calais’ aims to change public perception of the refugees living there, by giving an insight into their lives and personal stories.’”
Zak Abdille, a second year Medicine student, was one of those who decided to go. “It is important that we as King’s students help refugees because they are no different to us. They are educated individuals, people with families and friends amongst the chaos of the camp.”
The students returned on Monday morning after what had been an eye-opening and emotional experience.
“Real life feels so weird now”, Mohammed, a third year Religion, Philosophy and Ethics student said. “When I went downstairs and opened my fully stocked fridge, I felt sick.”
Ahmed Kerwan, a second year Medicine student said: “There is a vast amount of pandering to xenophobia and racism in the media. That’s why ‘King’s 2 Calais’ will be organising more delegations to the Jungle in the future. This will allow students to be at the epicentre of changing negative, misinformed public opinions.”
The UK has committed to take in 20,000 refugees over the next five years. Whilst this move has been welcomed, leading aid agencies have described it as ‘inadequate.’
KCL also recently announced that it will be offering sanctuary scholarships to talented refugees from 2016, after successful campaigns by ‘Student Actions for Refugees’ and ‘Students4Syria’.
Roar will be sitting down with members of ‘King’s 2 Calais’ to get a more in-depth take on their experiences in the camp. K2C will also be releasing more information about their trip over the next few weeks on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/kings2calais.