For the last 2 months, on the 6 pm, 7 pm and 10 pm news, Calais has been the main feature on the news. Maybe I realized it more because in France I do not watch the BBC, but I do think the world has started to look that way. In the last year I have been through the tunnel 8 times. Each time was different but none was bad. Only once was there a delay and it was a time that I went by train. The reason was not given for the delay, but after an hours wait, the ride had no major issues. The other six times, I went by bus. For the lapse under the channel we would go into the eurotunnel. Each and every time we arrived early at the destination, no delays, no stow aways, no disruptions or interruptions.
And one occasion the driver forgot the passenger after the British border control. She was going to the loo, like most of us do before getting back on the bus to France. We saw her behind the bus, running towards us, she looked quite surprised, as would I if I was left behind. We managed to alert the driver but he did not seem pleased that we hadn’t told him earlier. It was his responsibility to count the passengers at every stop but he must’ve failed to notice that a seat was empty that had to be filled.
If I did not watch the BBC or ITV in the evening I would not know how big the migrant problem has become. If I did not read the news I would not know how many people’s lives are being changed by the minute. If that child had not drowned, the world would not be so alarmed.
My grandad asked me one night, as we heard once again of “the jungle”, what would I do to solve this issue what would I do to make these lives better. I just answered I’m glad I don’t have to make those decisions. But today I realize there is something I can do, there is a lot I can do by raising my voice and not treating migrants as thieves. Thieves of jobs, thieves of space, thieves of resources.
There is a lot I can do making a difference between migrants and refugees. This is a difference that always existed but has been made public just recently. Because as we have seen, the people that come are sometimes fleeing war zones, oppression, authoritarian regimes, persecution… And should it not be our job to accept them with open arms and help them past this traumatic episode? Because “you can never cross the ocean, unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore” (Christopher Columbus). And they not only did that, but they left their lives behind completely, losing sight of the shore, the world they knew. Pursuing a dream, often not for themselves but for their children, for the future.
I was expecting on my last trip to the UK to see these desperate people breaking through the wires. I was even secretly hoping that one of them would manage to enter our bus and get to the UK. Because there were about 15 empty seats and when I think of those people dying and suffering in trucks, lorries and boats, I so wish we could just take them on the empty seats. This last return trip to France though things did change. It was kind of like a maze and there were more wires around… We went though the British border control and only one officer was there. He did not even look at me, just took my passport and scanned it through. I got back on the bus. The person next to me started saying that he had been through the border recently and they had had to wait 4 hours, on the bus, until they could get through. I guess I just came at a convenient time. We did not even go through the French border control! Officers just have been all hands on deck for the traffic coming into the UK. Preventing any migrant to stowaway somehow.
I do not wish to be in their shoes, I do not wish to have such a precarious situation but I also do not wish to stay immune to the reality. I do not wish to cross my arms and close my eyes. I wish for a more humane Europe, a more humane world. That one I see when a millionaire wants to buy a whole island for refugees so they can really start a fresh. That one I see when Germans go to the train stations and meet voyagers with smiles, welcoms and water and food. That world I see reflecting and also taking action. I wish for more of that, I hope to always be one of them. One of humanity.