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The Mayor Of Calais Has Banned Food Distribution To Refugees - A Response And A Plea For Harmony

06/03/2017 13:07 GMT | Updated 06/03/2017 13:07 GMT
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It was recently announced by Natacha Bouchart, the current Mayor of Calais that they have banned the distribution of food to refugees.

Though the Refugee camp there was dismantled three months ago, there is still a large population of refugees in and around the city, only now without the infrastructure to house or support them.

This move seems to be a method of keeping further refugees coming to the city or forming another refugee camp.

Indeed while the camp was in operation, there was a measure of concern (rightly or wrongly) for the security of not the refugees (who were targets of traffickers, but also residents of the city drivers on their way to the port. It is this fear or paranoia which may have created this policy which seems ultimately misguided.

In Calais, the food that is was given to refugees often comes from either two different sources.

-Unsold stock from Supermarkets (there is a French law ensuring unsold food stock be given to charity)

-Food donations.

This food is either given to refugees directly or is used in one of the kitchens which prepare meals for the refugees by volunteers.

It is worth repeating that the food and ingredients used are cast-offs, it is unlikely a single resident of Calais has been, nor will be affected by the food given to refugees.

These volunteers now are being forced to give food to the hungry in secret. It is possible that this new policy in Calais contravenes French law and as such will not be put into place.

However, there have been reports of French police tear gassing volunteers trying to deliver food to refugee concentrations in the area. So it is possible that were this policy be outlawed, an unofficial version of it would continue.

Whilst it may contravene French law it unquestionably goes against article 25.1 of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights which secures food and shelter for all.

The heavy-handed acts of the French police is relatively understandable in view of the number of horrific and unconscionable acts of terror which has bloodied French Soil many times over the past few years.

But greater understanding is needed, and a redirection of attention.

Those who preach terror ultimately want a division between refugee groups and European/western citizens. They want them to find no welcome, they want each European/western citizen to see refugees as potential threats.

It needs reiteration that many of the refugees are fleeing violence perpetrated by terrorist groups.

A welcoming hand not only proves our common decency but plays against evil intentions of terrorist groups who only aim for discord and disharmony.

I write as someone who has not suffered the exclusive agony of losing someone to terrorism. The world has seen its share and many have been forced to suffer the insanity of grief as loved ones have been snatched from them in psychopathic acts of violence and hate. I am thankfully incapable of even pretending I understand. When I hear stories of those who have survived terror attacks or lost people to them, it is difficult to reconcile with my privileged view of the world.

I've heard such stories from other Londoners, Americans, French people, Germans, Turkish people. I've heard such stories from Syrians, Afghans, and Iraqis too. If shared suffering can be a unifying force, we mustn't be separated due to any fear of Paranoia.

Now some complaining about the refugees in Europe have suggested population numbers as a reason for enacting laws against the refugees. This does not hold up to scrutiny.

In France, the total number of people that applied for asylum in 2016 numbered 85,244.

Of this number, 28% are classed as refugees. Therefore, the total refugees that applied for Asylum in France in 2016 numbers 23,868. Expect a much smaller number for the UK.

Of course, this number represents 2016. There will be many others from previous years.

But the number of Refugees living in Lebanon (a nation small than Wales) is over one million.

You would have to wait 43 years for the number of refugees applying for asylum in France (this is making the assumption that all are accepted, which is patently not the case) to match that of Lebanon.

To continue, 4.8 million refugees live in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt. Were France to have that number of refugees (which I would still argue to not mean France was over populated by refugees) you would have to wait over 200 years.

France has traditionally been welcoming to refugees and people seeking Asylum, far more so than the UK who has always been unwelcoming to refugees, asylum seekers (and immigrants in general) so these new anti-refugee policies seem surprising.

The fact remains, that even though this policy aims to make it difficult for the refugees to settle, it does not remove them or lead them to safety. All it seems to do is aim to make them unwelcome in Calais. The homeless refugees across the continent will remain unless helped, worse, becoming another anonymous member of the continent's homeless.

Instead, the answer to resolving the refugee crisis is not with the heavy-handed treatment of the refugees themselves. This can only work to appease the reactionary anger of far-right voters and may cause a degree of radicalisation in some refugees.

I feel the resolution to this should ultimately be apolitical. Whether you want each and every refugee out of Europe or want them to be welcomed with the love and care which all people deserve by birthright.

The simple fact of the matter is, the refugees are already here. Cruelty will not change this, intimidation will not change this.

Instead, I feel the resolution to this refugee crisis, and all global crises is with kindness.

There ultimately needs to be infrastructure to provide for the care of the refugees. Whether this is with the full support of major NGOs or the UN, or simply local communities welcoming refugees in with arms open.

Otherwise, we will remain where we are. Because all this policy and policies like it achieve is making refugees around Calais remain, only feeling unsafe, unwelcome and unfed.