Lambeth UNISON activist visits Calais refugees

Social Worker Jocelyn Cruywagen recently returned from a trip visiting a refugee camp in Calais. Below she documents what she saw.


Jocelyn in Calais

“On 28 April 2018 I visited Calais refugee ‘camp’ organised by South London Stand UP for racism and Trade Unions. I represented Lambeth UNISON Black members. We were about 40 delegates from all walks of life.  The purpose was to distribute aid to the refugees. Nothing prepared me for what I saw and how I felt after the visit.    

Handing out the aid

When I saw the boys coming towards the white van and cars it was obvious that they knew we had arrived. My first thought when I saw the boys was that they easily could have been my boys, this left me determined to get behind them to make life better for them, as much as I could.

I was tasked with working at front of the line where I had to use my judgement about the size of the boys collecting the care packets.  Every young man in the line shook hands with us and greeted us with such friendliness.

The packs consisted of one pair of boxer shorts, T-shirt, socks, dried nuts and fruit, deodorant, three toothbrushes, and wet wipes.

Some of the young men also asked for shoes. When I looked down and saw what they were wearing on their feet, I thought, ‘who wears shoes that are too small, too big and broken? What do you do if it rains?’ But now was not the time to ask questions.     

Urgently needed supplies

The new socks we gave them were used as gloves, and the wet wipes were used to wash their hands and hair.

They loved the dried nuts and fruits.

No care packet was left behind.

The mobile charging area (see picture) was a real jaw stopper.  In less than 10 minutes 22 mobiles phones were charging, by the end 30 plus mobile phones were charging. This is their life line. Like most 21 century folks, connected to some form of internet, these boys are connected to their family and friends via a mobile phone. And why not, it is their life line 110% vs my social line 110%. I like social media.

We played football and it was amazing to see how they enjoyed themselves, laughing and playing like most of us.

Adversity doesn’t seem to dampen their playfulness. 

My volunteer experience

The comrade and sharing of ‘why’ we came on this visit was very good. I enjoyed making new friends and meeting likeminded people.

I am determined to do something. #care4calaisboysaremyboys

I am spreading the word of young men that are displaced, moved away from their families, brutalised by the police who never ever would have imagined that they would be in this unjust, unacceptable horrible conditions.

Appeal for help

I would like to help and appeal for wellie boots and socks, no one should be without socks and dry shoes. Please see the list below for items needed.

You are welcome to join the #care4calais visits.   

Links to donate:

#care4calais – Jocelyn Cruywagen

Packs4calais – Jocelyn Cruywagen

South London Stand UP to racism – contact person. Roger Lewis 

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