From the 20th – 24th February, two members of Medact’s new Refugee Solidarity Group went to volunteer in the so-called Calais ‘Jungle’. This is the first of a series of blog posts they are writing to share their experiences with the Health Through Peace community.
Some background about Helen.
Helen is a Doctor taking time out training to volunteer for Doctors of the World, which she does 2-3 days a week. On her other days she locums in Pediatrics. She has an additional degree in Global Health and presented her research at the Anthropology and Global Health Conference in Brighton last year. When at University she was the President of MEDSIN.
Arrival – 20/2/16
Pauline and I stepped off the ferry from Dover to Calais and walked maybe 100 yards before we met a smiling young man walking alongside the road.
He joined us as we walked towards the centre of Calais. He introduced himself as Noor (Arabic for light). After a few minutes chatting we found out he was 20 years old, from Syria and 2 years into his medical studies. He had been in the jungle for 5 months and wanted to get to Britain to go to school and finish his medical studies.
He told us he was waiting for a friend. He mimed cutting the wire fence – to let him into the port. The day before he had tried the train: “no good”. He said he could not remember the number of times he had tried to cross the border. Yet, he seemed full of hope, full of optimism, full of light. We walked on together a bit further but then Noor stopped: “hmm, police”. Personally I couldn’t see them, but Noor has a bit more experience than me. We shook hands and he went on his way calling “Bonne chance”.
It felt really strange walking down the street chatting to a young medical student who, if he’d had a British passport, could have been a classmate.
Noor had been trying for 5 months to get to the UK. It had taken us less than 5 hours. It felt really strange walking down the street chatting to a young medical student who, if he’d had a British passport, could have been a classmate. The privilege of our passports: simply because of where we were born, we are free to travel where we please and go home when we choose. Whereas Noor is an unwelcome stranger, trapped in the limbo of an unofficial refugee camp in Northern Europe with no idea of when his struggle will come to an end.