Travelling thousands of miles to escape the violence that has torn so many families apart, they now face eviction from their temporary homes in ‘the Jungle’.
But as part of our series about refugees, Mark White meets the people bringing respite to those who have very little.
Arfan Iqbal and Abigail Evans both visited the Calais and Dunkirk camps and, in two very different ways, have helped to bring some sense of normality to the challenging conditions.
A delivery of life essentials arrived at the feet of war-torn refugees in wagons driven 400 miles by compassionate Prestonians.
Visiting the two camps in northern France, blankets, food, water and fire wood gave struggling families some relief, thanks to 24 members of the Light Foundation.
The Preston group, which aims to support Muslim converts and break down barriers between communities, made its way to Calais, known as ‘The Jungle’ and the lesser-known Dunkirk camp for the third time in six months.
And one member of the party, 38-year-old Arfan Iqbal, still can’t come to terms with how families were being forced to live.
“Woman and children are living in awful conditions,” he said. “The mud is everywhere and surrounds the tents these people are sleeping in. It’s not what you expect from civilised country, people living like this and it’s right across the road from nice houses.”
Arfan says Dunkirk doesn’t have anywhere near the amount of charity support of the Calais camp and, with a wife and four children at home in Fulwood, seeing it first-hand makes him feel very grateful.
“Some of these families have lost grandparents, mothers, fathers...children,” Arfan says. “It brings tears to your eyes seeing them, it wasn’t an easy journey leaving them again. Most have travelled a long way from countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, all fleeing the wars going on in their homes.
“The people I spoke to had very normal lives before. These aren’t just mums and dads, these are doctors, teachers and accountants.”
Arfan describes the group from Preston as “different people from different backgrounds coming together for one good cause.”
In wagons, trucks and cars the group took basic provisions to the 6,000 people living in the two camps and the foundation is planning another trip in the near future.
He said: “We took warm clothes, gloves, and scarves to keep them warm as well as food, drinks and shoes. They’re very grateful but of course they need more help. Calais is a much more stable camp than Dunkirk. There’s far more support there and although we will keep going, Dunkirk needs more help. We’re always looking for more people to join us or even just make donations so we can take more across. The situation isn’t good but we’re hoping that with time and support, it will get better.”
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