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How Regular People Are Helping Refugees In One Of Western Europe's Largest Camps

An estimated 5,000 refugees are living in a camp in Calais, France.
Volunteer teacher Delphine Blain teaches French to migrants at a makeshift school set at camp near Calais, northern France, F
Volunteer teacher Delphine Blain teaches French to migrants at a makeshift school set at camp near Calais, northern France, Friday, Aug. 7, 2015.

For Middle Eastern refugees living in the makeshift camp in Calais, France, known as “the Jungle,” living conditions are poor and tensions with the port town’s residents are high. 

“The Jungle” is at least a temporary home to an estimated 5,000 refugees who come from conflict-torn countries such as Eritrea, Afghanistan and Syria and are trying desperately to enter the U.K. in search of a better life. Their push has been met with a security crackdown that has resulted in increasing numbers of refugees to attempt to enter England from other ports. The camp has been described as one of the largest of its kind in Western Europe. 

Although few Brits across the English channel are supportive of taking in the refugees, many of their compatriots are finding ways to improve the lives of those living there. Their stories have received less attention than the conflict between the French and British government over how to handle the region’s migrant crisis. 

In an effort to counter that, Positive News, a U.K.-based, solutions-oriented news outlet, outlined a number of efforts from everyday people who are trying to make even a small positive impact on refugees’ lives.

One group, Jungle Books, was founded by British teacher Mary Jones. Jones created a library stocked with more than 200 books, which help the refugees learn how to read and write in English, thereby improving their employment prospects, according to Positive News. A school has also been created.

In addition, a Facebook group, People to People Solidarity, is serving as an online hub for Brits looking to coordinate taking action. It has more than 26,000 members.

Another group, Bikes Beyond Borders, has donated bikes and supplies like sleeping bags and tents to those living in the camp. The bikes allow for a less time-consuming trip into town for refugees to apply for jobs or fill out forms.

Rosie Strickland, a participant in a recent “critical mass” bike ride to deliver bikes and supplies to the Calais camp, wrote of the experience in a followup piece on Positive News:

 "We left the camp with a deep sense of irony and of our own privilege. How can it be possible that we can walk away, board a ferry, and reach England so easily when our friends fend for their lives in a lawless, sometimes ruthless, and filthy camp, fighting to be recognised as human?"

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A Church In Calais