Hundreds of children could be left homeless if the French authorities bulldoze the Calais ‘jungle’ camp, an Eastbourne refugee group has warned.
Volunteers from Eastbourne Refugee Support say more than 445 children – including more than 315 unaccompanied children some as young as 10 years old – could be left without anywhere to live if plans to demolish a section of the camp go ahead.
The group, which has helped to build up the camp’s infrastructure over the last six months, also says the move would severely damage the work done to improve conditions in the camp.
Marcie Clarke, one of the founders of the Eastbourne group, said, “It has changed so much since I first went there. They have schools, a library and a theatre, restaurants, several mosques and churches.
“Eastbourne has been a big part of that change, with the donations and work to put in some infrastructure at the camp. My husband - a local businessman - went over and started putting in the camp’s waste treatment system.
“Eastbourne is taking its share of the responsibility.”
Over the last six months Eastbourne has been at the forefront of efforts to improve conditions in the camps by helping to build some of the structures which are now set to be destroyed in by the French authorities.
Among these is the so-called Caravan of Love, a mobile home which was donated and decorated by Eastbourne residents and has been used a home for a family with a young child.
Another of the group’s founding members, Sienna David, said, “Naturally we’re outraged by what’s been done and what is planned.
“All community areas are being stripped away – schools, first aid shelters, churches, mosques, kitchens, etcetera – destroying the community atmosphere and leaving people with nowhere to go.
“The effect of this on morale cannot be underestimated.
“While I agree the jungle should ideally not exist, if they bulldoze the rest of the area planned, where will all the displaced residents go? These are not homeless drifters that can just move on, these are people fleeing war and violence.”
A final decision on the demolition will be made in the French courts later today (February 23).
French officials say it will displace around 1,000 refugees and migrants although charities working in the camps say they expect more than 3,000 to be displaced.
As well as its opposition to the demolition, Eastbourne Refugee Support is also calling on volunteers to consider training as foster carers
Marcie said, “There are around 950 unaccompanied children in the care of Kent County Council, because the county where they are first found is the county which has responsibilty for them.
“We want to encourage people to get involved by becoming foster carers for these children, for these evacuees because that is what they are, let’s not forget that is what they are.”
The group will be holding a workshop on becoming a foster carer at Victoria Baptist Church in Eldon Road from 7-9pm on March 22.
More information about the work done by Eastbourne volunteers can be heard at a ‘meet the artist’ event at 3pm in the Birley Centre on Sunday, February 28.
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