London2Calais couple return for mass rally

Article @ Morning Star, published 21 September 2015

A young London couple who have raised over £11,000 for refugees in Calais returned to the camp with a convoy this weekend to join a “refugees welcome” demonstration in the French town.

Over 50 people came from across Britain as part of the London2Calais initiative, started this summer by newlyweds Syed Bokhari and Mona Dohle.

In Calais the group spoke to some of the over 3,000 people living in squalid conditions in the camp, also known as The Jungle, before joining a 2,000-strong protest march to the port.

Mr Bokhari, who has been to The Jungle three times since founding London2Calais, said the camp is growing every week and things are not getting any better.

“Whilst aid is necessary in the absence of government support, handing out food and clothes is a world away from a lasting solution.

“This was a successful attempt by refugees and the organisations supporting them to make it political.”

He added: “The march was empowering for refugees. They led the procession, chanting and drumming from The Jungle up to the fences of the port.

“We marched together as equals, on this day they were not recipients of our aid but comrades facing a difficult struggle which London2Calais will continue to support by any means necessary.”

Afghan refugee Kabir Safi spoke to the Star about his six months in the camp, where he said things were “ready to explode.”

“Every night we come here, we manage to get over the fences and up to the cranes we can see from here [the port] but then the police stop us and turns us around.

“We spend five to eight hours a night running around here with the police chasing us.”

Two of Mr Safi’s friends lost their fingers as they jumped over fences and barbed wire to get to the port of Calais in an attempt to reach the trucks and cargo containers crossing the Channel into Britain.

Last week another of his companions died, electrocuted while trying to leave the camp by boarding a freight train.

“The Jungle is a dangerous place, sometimes fights break out over the lack of resources, sometimes knives get drawn,” Mr Safi added.

“All the refugees who marched with us today are fed up with this situation, they are sick of being stuck in here.

“This situation could explode at any moment, we are sure that any day now everyone in The Jungle will come out together to cross the border and we will either end up police officers, or dead refugees or both.”