Anger at Calais camp conditions
A Baptist minister has spoken of his frustration about the impasse that surrounds those living in the "Jungle" migrant camp in Calais
The Revd Sam King of Calne Baptist Church in Wiltshire recently saw the shocking conditions at the camp with his own eyes - and said whatever one’s views on immigration, to leave people in such inhumane place was a scandal.
Around 4,000 people are there, including women and children, but many are in limbo and are waiting for their asylum applications to be processed.
Researchers from the University of Birmingham, working with the Doctors of the World Group, described conditions as “diabolical” in the first study of conditions at the camp.
Sam discovered the French police do not enter the camp, but are stationed outside, which means the threat of violence is high. According to one witness, women live in constant fear of being raped, and are sleeping six to a tent, and church leaders request prayer for safety at night.
‘Whatever their motives for being here, the people in the camp should be treated like human beings,’ said Sam. ‘At the moment they’re being treated like animals.
‘It seems to me not beyond the two governments to set up offices in Calais, agree on who pays and process these people so they do not have stay in these awful conditions.’
Since returning from the camp Sam has written to his MP, the Mayor of Calais and even the Prime Minister.
‘But what more can I do?’ he continued.
‘I wish they needed more blankets, but they don’t. They need people to sort them. They need some form of justice.'
Sam visited the camp with one of his church deacons, Rachel Rounds. Rachel is head of communications at Bible Society, which had heard that from charities working there that Christians had been asking for Bibles.
The visit saw nearly 300 New Testaments, Bibles and Gospel portions given to asylum seekers living there. The Bibles were in Arabic and also Amharic, the language spoken by Ethiopians.
The Christians in the camp seek solace at St Michael’s – a makeshift church – which holds regular services throughout the week and was featured on Songs of Praise in August.
The Bibles are handed out by the church elders along with blankets, shoes and clothes, some of which had been donated by members of Sam and Rachel’s church.
One of the recipients included Solomon,* a taxi driver from Ethiopia, was given an Amharic New Testament. He has been living in the camp for over five months after travelling through Sudan and Libya from Ethiopia.
He is in his late twenties, and has left behind a wife and daughter, Ruth, who is three-years-old. He wanted to start a better life for his family and has applied for asylum in France but the authorities have yet to process his claim.
‘I dream of going to Canada’, he says, ‘but I spent $6000 crossing African and the Mediterranean on a boat. What can I do? I have no money to go home and seeing so many people who have been here for much longer, I know that the French will not welcome me.’
Sam was invited into a couple of tents. ‘It was really moving for them to tell their stories. And when they spoke of the favourite Bible passages, they had even more meaning.’
*Solomon is not his real name - changed at his request.
Top - Bibles are brought into the camp
Bottom - Baptist minister Sam King (striped top) listens as Solomon shares his favourite Bible passages
Layton Thompson/Bible Society
Following her visit to Calais, Rachel Rounds wrote an article for the MailOnline