Although the migrants have been supported by charities for years, the Jungle, fifteen months ago, was a very different place to how it is now. Over the months the infrastructure gradually improved with better sanitation, distribution procedures and communication networks. When I first visited I was surprised to find such an ordered community as I was expecting something far more dysfunctional.
The camp was arranged by nationality, Afghans and Kurds in the south, Eritreans in the north west etc. This helped minimise clashes between people who would normally oppose each other. Each community has elders or representatives that liaise with people from the charities so that information can be disseminated efficiently through the communities. If possible, families and unaccompanied minors were given caravans to live in. The demolition of the south has had a profound effect upon Jungle life. Communities are more mixed and that inevitably brings added tension to an already difficult situation.
The general health of the migrants is always a great concern. On my first trip, we spent a day telling everyone we met about the measles vaccinations taking place during the following week. We had information sheets in English, Kurdish, Arabic and Urdu and managed to spread the word. Those volunteers that speak one or more of the languages in the camp are invaluable to the charities in these situations.
At night people are attacking migrants both inside and outside the camp. People are being brutality beaten, with limbs broken on some occasions. Rumours are rife as to who these attackers are, but the police and riot police are very unsympathetic to the migrants.
The Jungle’s doctors and nurses are doing their very best trying to cope with severe beatings, lacerations due to cuts from razor wire and the general illnesses in the camp such as ‘Jungle cough’ caused by the constant damp and cold, and scabies which spreads so quickly.