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AWR Explores Refugee Needs

AWR Explores Refugee Needs

The Refugee Camp in Dunkirk (credit: D. Gungadoo)

AWR is contemplating the feasibility of a project with the refugees displaced (especially due to war) into Europe.

October 22, 2015 | Bern, Switzerland. | D. Gungadoo, A. Mazza, CD EUDNEWS.

AWR is contemplating the feasibility of a project with the refugees displaced (especially due to war) into Europe.

Thus, on September 20 and October 12, Daryl Gungadoo and Yves Senty (AWR Engineer and AWR Director in Europe, respectively), have visited first the refugee camp in Calais, and then the refugee camp in Dunkirk - both in France.

Here is an interesting report about these visits.

In Calais, the ethnic distribution of the refugees is 80% Sudanese (mostly from the Darfur region), while the rest are Ethiopians / Eritreans, or people coming from Chad, Mali, and other North African countries. Few come from the Middle East.

Most are young adult males; there are very few families.
They live in temporary shelters, often made out of corrugated iron, wood, sleeping bags and plastic sewn together. Most have completed primary school, but only 20% have college degrees and speak fluent English. There is a makeshift primary “school” and a makeshift “library” on the premises.

At least 75% are Muslims, with about 10% as Christians (mainly Orthodox from Ethiopia). There’s a makeshift Orthodox Christian church as well as at least 3 mosques. Despite the contrast, there seems to be mutual respect for the different religions.

NGOs take turns in offering at least 1 meal a day, however, we’ve found many cans of food wasted and left on the side of the road. Food doesn’t seem to be the main necessity at present. Many self-organised groups from England drive down to Calais and bring canned food, but the refugees don’t have running water, fire or electricity to cook. The most valuable commodity at present is wood for cooking. Many have push-bikes and they will go distances to bring back dry wood.

Most NGOs or groups offering relief are from the UK, and have a Muslim background. The only well-known non-Muslim relief agency operating in the area is caritas.org (the Catholic Relief agency). There is no electricity on the site so some NGOs sometimes bring a generator, and people line up to charge their cellphones just enough to make a brief call or send a text message.

There are some spots where PortaLoos have been installed. 1 NGO offers showers at a specific time of the day, but only the young and strong can line up for hours to get a shower. There is no sense of order or cleanliness: when incoming trucks drop bags full of clothes, the refugees rummage through and discard their old clothes anywhere on the ground. The use of trash cans is not at all enforced. Most of the refugees have nothing to do all day, so they sit on the side of the road and wait...wait for an opportunity to jump the fence or hide in a truck to cross the border. We met with 1 person that had both legs broken when he fell from a truck as he was trying to cross over.

In Dunkirk, the ethnic distribution is made of 60% Syrians (mostly from the Kurd region), 20% from Iran, 15% from Iraq, 1 tent from Eritrea & 1 tent from Vietnam. There are 800 refugees in the camp, with most people not staying for long. 

There are 50% young adult males, and the remaining 50% is made of families with kids living in standard camping tents. Most have completed secondary school while 30% have college degrees and speak fluent English. There is a makeshift “school” on the premises. At least 60% are Muslims, about 20% are Christians who claim persecution in their country, and 10% adhere to Zoroastrianism.

NGOs take turns in offering at least 1 meal a day. Here too, food doesn’t seem to be the main necessity at present. Currently, the most valuable commodity is wood for cooking. ADRA is assigned to provide the Sunday lunch. The local volunteers (for ADRA) get most of the basic food expenses refunded by the local government. 

As seen at Calais, there is no electricity on the site. Again, some NGOs sometimes bring a generator, and people line up to charge their cellphones just enough to make brief calls or send a text message.

Recently, shower cubicles and toilets were installed with running water, about 200m from the camp. Here, all the refugees seem clean. ADRA has a hard time finding ways to wash the towels (as it’s their responsibility) and it’s not paid for by ADRA France or the government. The Dunkirk camp is a lot cleaner than that of Calais. Most of the refugees have nothing to do all day so they play football, but only when it’s not raining...They have to go to Calais to try to cross illegally.

The local ADRA volunteers are just church members, because the official ADRA office isn’t intervening directly.

To watch the video of the visit in Dunkirk, please connect here.

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