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Calais Refugee Camp Christmas Wishlist Is For Simple Things And You Can Help

25/12/2015 07:52 GMT | Updated 25/12/2015 07:59 GMT

For the close to six thousand refugees living at Calais this Christmas, home is little more than a tent and a sleeping bag.

Things are worsening for those surviving day-to-day in the camps around the French port. Heavy rain swells the sodden ground causing tents to sink into the mud, their occupants turfed out with nowhere else to go.

Clare Moseley has spent the past four months away from her family, having left her comfortable life as an accountant to live and work in the refugee camps near Calais. “The worst days are when we can see the White Cliffs of Dover,” she says, “that really is an insult to injury.”

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Clare Moseley has been working at Calais for four months

Yet the weather is but one pressing issue facing refugees and volunteers. Traversing the huge camp is becoming more difficult, the terrain impassable in parts.

This has brought about a need for things one might not expect to be required. Fire extinguishers, wooden pallets and rolling water carriers are among a list of 'priority items' desperately needed by those living in the camps.

But despite conditions declining with the onset of winter, extraordinary acts of kindness provide Clare and her fellow volunteers with the motivation to continue.

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Rolling water carriers ease the arduous journey to fill containers

“We were distributing coats that had been donated when one gentleman came up to me in a panic,” she recalls.

“He’d found €100 in his pocket with a note from a lady. She says ‘I’m writing to you my friend because I am very ashamed of my country’.

“She was a pensioner and she had saved up this money and she was giving it to him.

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Weather coats are in high demand as refugees battle to stay warm and dry

“He didn’t understand the letter and even after an interpreter explained he didn’t want to take the money.

“I had to make him take it. I said that’s what she would have wanted him to do.”

Clare recites countless examples of Brits pledging anything they can to help those trapped at Calais. Winter Fuel Allowances have begun to arrive, donated by pensioners despairing at the situation.

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Refugees queue for aid in Calais

While goodwill isn’t necessarily in short supply, Clare is working hard to target donations more effectively. There is a clear ‘priority list’ for goods urgently required in the camps.

Items such as sturdy shoes, wooden pallets, French-rated gas cookers, wind-up torches, small-waist men’s trousers, rolling water carriers, fire extinguishers, and personal care kits are among those desperately needed.

Refugees themselves explain why they need these items in our video above.

Filmed in December at the camp, some of those featured protect their faces due to fears of reprisals should they reach the UK.

PRIORITY ITEMS

Sturdy shoes

Shoes, European sizes 41-44, which can cope with difficult terrain and wet weather

Wooden pallets

Raised platforms help keep tents, belongings, and sleeping bags off sodden ground

Rolling water carriers

These innovative water carriers lessen the burden of carrying water long distances

Fire extinguishers

A number of fires caused by open flames means safety devices are sorely needed

While four months would be a relatively short amount of time anywhere else in the world, in the Jungle it’s a lifetime.

Having left her husband and family back in Merseyside, Clare upped sticks and left for France this summer – spurred on by mean-spirited press coverage of those traversing Europe in search of a better, safer life.

The 45-year-old joined Care4Calais, a fledgling organisation distributing goods across the huge site, becoming responsible for everything from packing and handing out packages, to organising volunteers, and even posting photos to Facebook.

It’s a responsibility that is not just physically demanding, but emotionally draining, too.

PRIORITY ITEMS

Personal care kits

Toothbrushes, toothpaste and other sundries provide refugees with dignity

Smaller waist men’s trousers

European sizes above 34-inch waist are simply too large for smaller refugees

Wind-up torches

Without the need for batteries, these provide crucial light in tents without a fire risk

French-rated gas cookers

While not available in England, French-standard gas cookers heat both food and tents. These can be bought for less than €10 each

It’s little wonder. The stories of those Clare has met while working in the camp bear witness to the sheer adversity they have endured.

“I met an Iranian woman with three little girls who fled Iran in the most horrendous circumstances,” Clare says, “She told me her husband had been sent to prison and that for three years she had gone to the prison with food parcels and cigarettes.

“One day, one of the guards just said to her that her husband had been dead for a year.

Water is a big problem in the jungle, and it breaks your heart to see people struggling in the mud to carry water long...

Posted by Care4Calais on Friday, December 18, 2015

“Clearly she was devastated, and ended up fleeing Iran with her three little ones, got to Turkey and onto a boat to Greece.

“She was told to think of herself as being dead when she got on the boat, and if she survived it was a bonus.

“I don’t know how she did that. So brave and so strong, and now they’re at Calais – and that’s the end of the rainbow,” she says, clearly devastated with the conditions that greet those who’ve made such horrendous journeys.

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Water and sanitation continue to cause concern in the camps at Calais

Yet the strength of those surviving in the Jungle is matched only by their desire to reach Britain to try to piece together their broken lives.

Many have relatives in the UK. Others display remarkable patriotism towards a country they’re trying desperately to reach.

“Britain to them means democracy, they believe in democracy. They think it’s the land of the free and the fair.

“They believe in the Queen perhaps even more than we do,” Clare says, “Children will say ‘If I keep being good will the Queen let me into England’.

“They believe that if they make it to Britain, work hard, be nice to everyone, that everything will work out nicely.”

Coats can be a hard distribution but this lot nailed it! With the winter weather coats are in high demand to stay warm...

Posted by Care4Calais on Sunday, December 20, 2015

They come from Eritrea, where the UN found widespread evidence of human rights violations in the country committed "under the authority of the government".

From Sudan, where two million people are believed to have lost their lives due to civil war and famine in Sudan since 1983.

From Pakistan, which continues to face frequent gun and bomb attacks that have claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people.

And Iran, where women and minority groups face persecution, as well as Syria, Afgahnistan and Iraq, left ravaged by the effects of war.

This is a group of school teachers from London and Birmingham who helped us to distribute over 300 warm jumpers in just...

Posted by Care4Calais on Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Yet despite being closer to London than Bristol, Calais couldn’t feel further away from the looming White Cliffs on a clear day.

“There’s something about Calais,” Clare says, “the fact it’s next to England, it’s like the swear word – Greece isn’t as scary, Italy isn’t as scary.

“Calais is scary to people.”

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A sign pleads for help from the Queen in the Calais camp

But it’s this time of year that brings into focus the reality of what’s happening to those at Calais, and elsewhere, awaiting a sign of their future. “The thing that upsets me the most,” Clare says, “this thing about ‘coming home for Christmas’.

“That word ‘home’. Home is a human right, to not a have a home, it’s heartbreaking.

“There's six thousand people who can’t go home for Christmas. They should have a future.”

You can donate to Care4Calais here, and find out how you can help those in the camps via CalAid here.

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