Friday, June 02, 2017

A simple story of a food queue

A heavily armed CRS officer brought his baton down on my hand as he prevented me from carrying a box of food to a group of refugees, unnecessary aggression reinforcing a total prohibition on helping people in desperate need. 

This is calais in 2017 where a group of a hundred or so refugees had gathered on the wasteland near what is being called the new jungle (though see my previous post) in expectation of getting food and water. The van from the warehouse had duly tuned up, the smell of hot food wafting from the tailgate. We had arrived to rendezvous with some young Eritreans in need of a shower and a change of clothes.

But between us and our friends was a row of CRS vans and heavily armed officers toting pepper spray, CS gas,  rubber bullets and other weaponry. There were probably more paramilitary police than volunteers and they were there to ensure that no one got fed today.

An awkward stand-off ensued. As we waited municipal police turned up on motor cycles and proceeded to issue fixed penalty notices on the vans from the warehouse. They were fined €130 for various violations. We could not quite work out what rules had been infringed. Recently one van was fined for being a few kilos over-weight. These seemed to be 'illegally' parked, though how you can do that in an industrial estate, where vehicles are left at rakish angles to the kerb all over the place, beats me.

Finally Vincent decides that this has gone on long enough and with a few of us in tow, he grabs baskets containing takeaway boxes filled with food and leads us towards the line of CRS officers. We intend to feed some people. It's why we'd come. As soon as we reached the line we are stopped, pushed back. A few volunteers take individual meal packs and walk towards the refugees. They too are stopped. One has the lunch box knocked out of her hand and its contents land on an officer. She is led away by a group of police for 'assaulting' one of their own but quickly released. Another volunteer has his mobile phone taken off him by a burly policeman who doesn't like being filmed. Amid howls of indignation from onlookers and some remonstrating from his colleagues he tosses it over his head in the direction of a gaggle of volunteers, one of whom catches it and returns it to its owner. This display of casual brutality is daily life for those we've come to feed.

It is clear that the CRS line is not going to break; indeed it is being reinforced as all this is going on. More vans are arriving and joining the barrier, more heavily armed officers are disgorged and join the thickening blue line. Behind them we notice a van full of border force officers arrives. They start rounding up the refugees, pepper spraying the rocks they are seated on, bundling some into their van and chasing others off. About a dozen are taken away.

It is clear that we can do no more. The few refugees left soon melt away into the woods, making themselves scarce. Hurried phone calls and gesturing from one of the volunteers indicates they will try to meet them and at least give them water on this hot afternoon.

We head for our vehicles that are the other side of the police line. Vincent asks if we can go through to be told firmly 'no'. He asks the young officer why, expecting to be told something about orders or operational safety. But the young man fixes his gaze and tells him 'because it annoys you.' Vincent marvels at his honesty as we walk around the block chuckling in the early summer sunshine to approach our cars from the other end. 

It seems that the Prefect of Calais has decided that, though the court in Lille declared it illegal to prevent the feeding of refugees, he can determine how many times a day they will eat. And he has decided that once a day is sufficient. So distribution, under the watchful gaze of the police, will be allowed between six and eight this evening. We wonder if the prefect is on this one meal a day diet. By the look of a good number of his officers, they are not.

For the refugees who have fled war or the threat of persecution in their own countries, travelled often dangerous routes for many months, this is yet one more indignity visited on them by the home of human rights. It makes you proud to be European! 

We head home to guiltily partake of lunch and post our experiences on Facebook and twitter.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A new jungle?

Well, it has been a while, but here is a reflection on today's visit to Calais. I caught up with friends in the warehouse, met new people in the Catholic worker house and went shopping with my favourite monk (everyone should have a favourite monk!) and I went to see where food distribution takes place on a daily basis...

On a piece of waste ground at the back of Calais’ Zone Industrielle des Dunes, a snaking line of a hundred or so people queues for food. A similar number sit in groups eating, talking, some catching up on sleep. 

This is not the new jungle but it is a rumour of it. Desperate people tell stories of being pepper sprayed last night by the police, of running for most of the hours of darkness to avoid the CRS vans. They gather here seeking a break from the monotony of dodging the authorities, a chance to catch their breath, tell stories.  But there are no shelters here - bar one (of which more in a moment) - and no evidence of any emerging. This is just a place for an hour or so's respite before the trudging continues. So it is no new jungle.

A gaggle of volunteers at the back of a transit doles out rice and beans and salad. The Calais Refugee Kitchen works with miracles with scant resources and a skeleton crew. 

Away from the groups eating, other groups huddle round jerry cans of water 'showering' as best they can, squatting with shampooed hair and cupping water over their heads. There has been an outbreak of scabies, an infection caused by lack of sanitation and living in the same clothes for days on end. With showers harder to come by because the authorities harass those groups that provide them, laundry services all but non-existent and new clothes in shorter supply than a year ago, this low-level plague will only get worse.

A CRS van cruises by every fifteen minutes or so but doesn't stop. So we sit and chat with a mixed group of Eritreans and Afghans, talking as best we can about the previous night and how long they have been in Calais, how often they have tried to get to the UK, and where they are going to try to sleep today or tonight before they try again. 

There's an Afghan family living in a tumble-down wooden caravan (the aforementioned single shelter). A mum and dad and three children, grateful that Secours Catholique will take them off for showers. As months give way to years, they wait for a government that will pay them the attention they are looking for. Meanwhile the children play and run and hug Mariam and eat oranges, juice streaking dirty faces and hands. Their hope breaks your heart, their plight raises a fierce anger in your gut, the desire to break down the fences keeping them from the safety and security we all take for granted.

Our wall - £2m-ish of UK tax payers money lining the A16 to the ferry port - speaks of our attitude to these people: a problem to be kept at arms length by concrete and razor wire, increased armed patrols, pepper spray and harassment. And this group of a couple of hundred, subdued, wary but smiling when we squat with clutches of half a dozen or so, welcoming us into their conversation, wanting to tell us as much of their story as they have language for, wanting to know who we are and where we're from, interested in making connection with the world beyond the constant search for shelter in the storm of indifference.

But this is not the new jungle. That had been a place of relative safety, somewhere, at least temporarily, to call home, a shack, a bed, a kitchen, and the rudiments of community. That was swept away in a wave of cleansing zeal by a prefecture which assumed that if they washed these people from the land, they would disappear. But they are here, large as life, still determined, still amazingly good natured, still steely in their determination to cross over to the promised land. 


And where are we? Most of us are home, tucking our children into bed, entertaining friends for a meal, enjoying a night out, settling in front of the TV, safe, secure and doing all the things those in the snaking line would rather being doing given half a chance.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

The ever-present John Berger

I was saddened to hear that John Berger had died earlier this week. He was one of those voices that has been with me through my whole adult life. I first encountered him as a sixth former watching his BBC film Ways of Seeing. I was a proud owner of the wonderful Penguin book that accompanied the series. And he has surfaced from time to time ever since.

He was a man who knew the value of words and could capture a world in a phrase.

There have been lots of reflections on his life in the past week. What struck me was how much his concerns resonated with mine in relation to Calais. He spoke a lot about hospitality and migration and a couple of phrases in particular have set me thinking about how I might capture some of my thoughts on the past year in writing that I am just getting down to.

The first was reported in today's Guardian. The writer Ali Smith was reflecting on a British Library event that Berger spoke at in 2015. He was asked what he thought about the huge movement of people across the world. It was an obvious question because in the seventies he had a written a classic study on migration, A Seventh Man. Smith reports that he paused for what seemed like an age and then responded, 'I have been thinking about the storyteller's responsibility to be hospitable.'

What a great phrase. I have been thinking how to tell my story in relation to the Jungle, and that is a story of hospitality that I have been on the receiving end of. That's something that Berger reflected on  with New Statesman writer, Philip Maughan in 2015. He'd been in Istanbul and was invited to tea in a draughty cabin on the edge of the city. There a migrant scraped an existence in the hope of a better life. As Berger waited for tea to arrive he noticed on a shelf in the cabin the Turkish edition of one of his books! Maughan observes 'this is precisely what Berger meant by fraternity: even in great solitude, against the dehumanising reality of servitude to capital or war, connections can be formed. Our differences diminish.'

That's precisely what I felt in the jungle. And I, therefore, feel a responsibility to tell the story of my experience hospitably, paying careful attention to my hosts' stories.

This is something that Olivia Laing also reflects on in the same piece in today's Guardian. She says, 'Capitalism, he wrote in Ways of Seeing, “survives by forcing the majority to define their own interests as narrowly as possible”. It was narrowness he set himself against, the toxic impulse to wall in or wall off. Be kin to the strange, be open to difference, cross-pollinate freely. He put his faith in the people, the whole host of us. Host: there’s another curious word, lurking at the root of both hospitality and hospital. It means both the person who offers hospitality, and the group, the flock, the horde. It has two origins: the Latin for stranger or enemy, and also for guest. It was Berger’s gift, I think, to see that this kind of perception or judgment is always a choice, and to make a case for kindness: for being humane, whatever the cost.'

The second phrase that resonated with me was at the end of Maughan's piece in the New Statesman. Reflecting on Berger's novel To the Wedding, he noted a line he liked in his diary, something that seemed to suggest what storytelling was for. 'What shall we do before eternity?' it asks; 'take our time.'

Those final three words have been burrowing away in my mind since I read them. Clearly we take the time we are offered. The implication is that time is to be seized, wrung of all the possibilities it holds for us; not a moment is to be wasted because it comes in an all-too finite supply. But clearly also, we take our time; hospitality requires that we linger, relax into the company of another. I'm reminded how long it took to make chai in the camp, a length of time that was filled with storytelling and silences, laughter and tears, things that could not have found a place in our shared lives if we had not taken the time to be together.

Berger's death has sent me back to his writings with a new relish and a fresh set of questions and expectations. We have lost a voice without equal and yet as Ali Smith noted, it's hard to think of his voice in the past tense because everything about him was so present. Like all great writing, his is continually present tense. For that I am grateful.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

A month on, what am I thinking..?

I'm sitting in a meeting understanding very little, seeing mainly smiling faces which laugh in the way that people do to an in-joke. I wonder if I'm feeling a little of the disorientation that a refuge feels when people are talking about them rather than to them, when they are trying to navigate their way through an alien landscape. Most are talking about the issue from their viewpoint and in the interests of the organisation they represent. And now my translator has abandoned me to make a phone call!

It's strange a month on from the demolitions - this week the twenty-eight day cooling off time is up for the residents shipped to CAOs. I'm trying to gather my thoughts. I have wanted to sit and write to get some reflections down but I wonder if everything is still quite raw. I feel as though my mind is a dam behind which a lake of emotions is rising. Once the dam is breached I have no idea what will come out.

When people ask me about the jungle - often expecting me to say that there's nothing to do now, so I'm not going to Calais anymore - I can feel a river of information like a pent-up flood that will be released as soon as I begin speaking. I find myself having to check my sentences so that I give space for others in the conversation to tell me and the rest what they've been doing. But once I start, it's hard to stop.

I want to talk about the government and how woeful its response has been; I want to talk about the people I don't see anymore because they're scattered across France (and the pain I feel about that); I want to talk about my friends who are in the UK and who I don't see enough. I want to talk about the people I've met and how I've seen Jesus in their eyes and actions. I don't want to talk people into submission or drive them away because they don't know what to do with the feelings that I'm offloading on to them.

So I say I'm still going because of the house (I'm one of the managers of the association that runs the Catholic worker house in Calais). As a follow-up, I say that there are still three refugees in the house who have various medical needs, that we are hoping they will be moving on to the next stage of their journey very soon, into a place where their needs will be more fully met. There were five but one has gone to Paris, the other made it to the UK earlier this week; both need mental health support.

But I can't leave it there. Suddenly I'm railing against the inertia of a system that is only now - only when the twenty-eight day window has closed - beginning to assess people. Suddenly I'm asking in a voice being overcome with pain why the home office hasn't seen any of the kids we were working with who have a claim to go to the UK to be reunited with family, why no Dubs children have left France for the past month, why we think this is an acceptable way to treat people. But, of course, no one in the conversation thinks this is an acceptable way to treat anyone - let alone a vulnerable child refugee. And of course, few know what a Dubs child is or how the Dublin treaty works and they are not sure they should ask me for definitions at this point!

So, I stop. I ask how they are and what they've been up to. But they are looking for someone easier to catch up with.

I find myself asking (myself) if I've become too political, too absorbed in this issue that is complex and overwhelming and leaves so many feeling powerless. I wonder if they are a bit in awe at what I've done over the past year, feeling that they don't know how to engage me on it, what questions to ask. I wonder if I've come across as too bolshy, like a demonstrator ranting at the police for want of making my case to an authority figure who could actually make a difference.

Calmer now, I tell my friends that I've been to see my MP, raised some specific cases with him, urged him to urge the Home Secretary to pull her finger out. I do this in answer to the question I get asked more and more: 'what can we do?' My answer is always 'write to your MP, try to meet them, make a noise, sign a petition.' It's safe but I wonder whether it does any good. I feel I ought to be saying that they should be ripping up paving stones launching them at lines of riot police... I feel the heat rising.

Of course, I don't think that. I believe that we need to raise the issue peacefully, move to learn the way of non-violent resistance to power, find ways of adopting the techniques of civil disobedience to bring the traffic to a standstill and inconvenience the government into pulling its finger out (without, of course, making life harder for the government's many victims over here). I find myself so far out of my comfort zone, I begin to stop talking. Where's Arthur when you need him? A reference to a wonderful volunteer who always talked about mobilising along these lines!

So now I'm asking how I can gather my thoughts and reflections on this year. What can I write? And suddenly I'm mute. I'm back in that place of feeling a dam solidly stopping the flow of thoughts and feelings from spilling onto the page. 

So I wait.

I know, however, that the thoughts won't appear until I sit in front of the keyboard with a blank screen and a free day.

So I wait.



Thursday, November 03, 2016

Why planning matters

As the last bus leaves the camp, I am reminded of a second curse of today's world (after too few people doing important jobs). It is our apparent commitment to brinksmanship. We leave everything to the last minute. Now this is ok when you're thinking about an evening out or a weekend away. It's not a good strategy for sorting out complex problems affecting the immediate safety and long-term futures of some of the world's most vulnerable people.

But it seems to be the mindset of both the French and British governments in relation to the children of the jungle. Our government has known since the start of this year of the presence of many hundreds of unaccompanied children who have a Dublin 3 claim to asylum in the UK (because they have close family already settled here). The government knows because of the work of Citizens UK identifying and registering them, taking a test case to court and opening up a channel with the Prefecture to transfer children from Calais to London. 

Yet our government did nothing. Indeed it opposed Citizens UK in the courts. It lost the first round but won on appeal - lots of money spent to keep children out of the country that could have spent bringing them to safety. 

Then when the French finally decided that they had to remove the jungle, the British sprang into action with all the all the energy of a lethargic snail. Acknowledging that something needed to be done, they then allowed any and every obstacle to slow the process down. They managed to transfer 200 unaccompanied minors in a week but there it has ended. Our government is now locked in unseemly buck-passing with the French government. The thinking seems to be 'who can be seen doing the least to resolve this situation?’

Last week's chaos in the camp that has resulted in 2,000+ people, many of them children, existing with precious little support and no idea of what the future holds for them, is down to a lack of planning on the part of both governments. Now we all know that lack of proper planning results in piss-poor performance. But it reveals something more than that. It reveals a complete indifference to the consequences of our poor planning, in this case, the abandonment of some of the most vulnerable people in France.

Proper planning is evidence that we care. It shows that we are prepared to put ourselves out, commit resources to ensure that those who need our help, get it. Lack of planning demonstrates that we actually do not care at all about these people. The lack of proper planning on the part of our government and the government of France shows that neither really cares what happens to those who have come seeking refuge, safety, help.

Yesterday, the buses took unaccompanied minors to accommodation and assessment centres across France. Some of them were accompanied by officials from the UK border force whose job will be to assess Dublin 3 claims that any of the minors have. This is a change from last week when the mood music was that children who had been registered as having a Dublin 3 claim would be bussed to the UK to have it sorted out there. The upshot of this is probably that fewer of these children will make it to the UK, more families will remain divided, more minors will remain stuck in limbo.


Today the final residents - women and children and a few male partners - left the Jules Ferry centre. The camp goes quiet for a while.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

witnessing the jungle's last gasp

It is the curse of today's world that companies and organisations, even governments think it is efficient and cost-effective to run any operation with the minimum number of staff. It isn't. 

I arrive at a virtually empty house to be invited to take a young man to register with the minors at the camp. He has mild mental health issues and gets agitated in crowds. Some in the stationary queue have been there for two hours already. It doesn't look good. We stayed about five minutes in the melee and it was clear that he wasn't coping. We left. 

We bumped into a colleague on the way out of the throng, told her what was happening. She confirmed the under-staffed chaos within and regretted that she couldn’t pull any strings to get our friend fast-tracked. We’d have to find another way 

We went off to find other friends under the fly-over and plan our next move. 

The only place where the staffing maxim doesn't apply here is with the CRS, the armoured, tooled-up French riot police. The more the merrier. They've booked some 1500 bed spaces across Calais for the foreseeable and now a great phalanx of them Is deployed as the prefect's people arrive for their photo call with the world's press.

it’s mid-afternoon, an autumn sun is warming the air and the show is about to begin. A spokesperson for the Prefecture, a petite, almost chic early middle-aged blond woman in fur topped wellies, tells the waiting media what’s about to happen. She makes it clear that it is not a ‘destruction’ but a ‘cleansing’. I turn to my French speaking colleague to confirm what I’ve heard. The prefecture would prefer the world’s press to describe the removal of mainly black and middle eastern people by a mainly white, European police force as a ‘cleansing’. She seems to have no idea of the bloody swathe this word has described through European history, including the recent story of the Balkans. But she sticks with it.

Almost comically she then warns the press not to speak of the deployment of bulldozers to effect the cleansing. Rather the contractors will be using 'bobcats'. The small machines that appear almost as she speaking are track vehicles fronted with small claw-bottomed hoppers that look to all the world like bulldozers, albeit small ones, but bulldozers all the same. We point this out later to a journalist on a mobile, phoning in copy, telling the ears at the other end that the machines are bobcats not bulldozers. He stresses this as if his story hangs on it. He doesn’t appear to be from Construction News, so we turn to him and point out that a bulldozer is a bulldozer is a bulldozer whatever label the prefect’s spokesperson attaches to it. He looks non-plussed!

And so on cue, dozens of men in pristine orange jump suits and white hard hats, equipped with a range of tools from spanners and wrenches to chain saws and hammers, appear and start ‘cleansing’ a shelter.

It is testament to the tireless team of British shelter builders who put up most of the structures around the camp last winter with the help of the residents, what great work they did. The shelter is virtually indestructible. For twenty minutes and more, the team pull and push, poke and prod, bang and twist the panels, eventually deploying the chain saw to cut some 2” by 4” timbers at the base, but seem to leave little mark on it. Eventually it succumbs and the bobcat comes in to take way some of the bits and deposit them in a skip.

All this is watched by a posse of camera crews ranged on the two vantage points left vacant by the CRS.

At this rate of progress, it will take until Christmas to cleanse the camp.

Of course, this is a stunt for the press. Offer them something compelling for the six 0’clock news and they’ll disappear to their hotels leaving the authorities to scythe through the camp with their usual brutality.

A colleague watches all this and a Sudanese boy turns up having queued to register and been turned away because there were too many minors and far too few staff. He needs to get his papers. His caravan is earmarked for destruction and cut-off by a line of CRS. A bit of negotiating ensues and he is allowed to retrieve his documents and a few belongings before having to vacate the site. Now he has nowhere to sleep. His lack of registration means he has no wrist band and does not appear on the lists for the containers. He is homeless.

It’s ironic that this should be the case because the spokesperson from the Prefect’s office had said that the authorities had chosen to start the cleansing here in order to create a cordon sanitaire around the container park so that the young people housed therein would feel safer. You couldn’t make it up.

Of course the day after this charade for the press, things get mildly uglier. Registered and unregistered residents of the jungle, faced with eviction by the French state, burn their shelters, the homes that they have made from the scraps around them, the community they have forged in the teeth of opposition and harassment. It is their final act of agency in a situation where they are being systematically stripped of any control over their lives, herded like cattle on to buses in some ghastly though far less grisly reenactment of recent European history. The Prefect’s spokesperson, lacking any sense of irony, misses this.

The rest of us turn away weeping, ashamed.

witnessing the jungle's last gasp

It is the curse of today's world that companies and organisations, even governments think it is efficient and cost-effective to run any operation with the minimum number of staff. It isn't. 

I arrive at a virtually empty house to be invited to take a young man to register with the minors at the camp. He has mild mental health issues and gets agitated in crowds. Some in the stationary queue have been there for two hours already. It doesn't look good. We stayed about five minutes in the melee and it was clear that he wasn't coping. We left. 

We bumped into a colleague on the way out of the throng, told her what was happening. She confirmed the under-staffed chaos within and regretted that she couldn’t pull any strings to get our friend fast-tracked. We’d have to find another way 

We went off to find other friends under the fly-over and plan our next move. 

The only place where the staffing maxim doesn't apply here is with the CRS, the armoured, tooled-up French riot police. The more the merrier. They've booked some 1500 bed spaces across Calais for the foreseeable and now a great phalanx of them Is deployed as the prefect's people arrive for their photo call with the world's press.

it’s mid-afternoon, an autumn sun is warming the air and the show is about to begin. A spokesperson for the Prefecture, a petite, almost chic early middle-aged blond woman in fur topped wellies, tells the waiting media what’s about to happen. She makes it clear that it is not a ‘destruction’ but a ‘cleansing’. I turn to my French speaking colleague to confirm what I’ve heard. The prefecture would prefer the world’s press to describe the removal of mainly black and middle eastern people by a mainly white, European police force as a ‘cleansing’. She seems to have no idea of the bloody swathe this word has described through European history, including the recent story of the Balkans. But she sticks with it.

Almost comically she then warns the press not to speak of the deployment of bulldozers to effect the cleansing. Rather the contractors will be using 'bobcats'. The small machines that appear almost as she speaking are track vehicles fronted with small claw-bottomed hoppers that look to all the world like bulldozers, albeit small ones, but bulldozers all the same. We point this out later to a journalist on a mobile, phoning in copy, telling the ears at the other end that the machines are bobcats not bulldozers. He stresses this as if his story hangs on it. He doesn’t appear to be from Construction News, so we turn to him and point out that a bulldozer is a bulldozer is a bulldozer whatever label the prefect’s spokesperson attaches to it. He looks non-plussed!

And so on cue, dozens of men in pristine orange jump suits and white hard hats, equipped with a range of tools from spanners and wrenches to chain saws and hammers, appear and start ‘cleansing’ a shelter.

It is testament to the tireless team of British shelter builders who put up most of the structures around the camp last winter with the help of the residents, what great work they did. The shelter is virtually indestructible. For twenty minutes and more, the team pull and push, poke and prod, bang and twist the panels, eventually deploying the chain saw to cut some 2” by 4” timbers at the base, but seem to leave little mark on it. Eventually it succumbs and the bobcat comes in to take way some of the bits and deposit them in a skip.

All this is watched by a posse of camera crews ranged on the two vantage points left vacant by the CRS.

At this rate of progress, it will take until Christmas to cleanse the camp.

Of course, this is a stunt for the press. Offer them something compelling for the six 0’clock news and they’ll disappear to their hotels leaving the authorities to scythe through the camp with their usual brutality.

A colleague watches all this and a Sudanese boy turns up having queued to register and been turned away because there were too many minors and far too few staff. He needs to get his papers. His caravan is earmarked for destruction and cut-off by a line of CRS. A bit of negotiating ensues and he is allowed to retrieve his documents and a few belongings before having to vacate the site. Now he has nowhere to sleep. His lack of registration means he has no wrist band and does not appear on the lists for the containers. He is homeless.

It’s ironic that this should be the case because the spokesperson from the Prefect’s office had said that the authorities had chosen to start the cleansing here in order to create a cordon sanitaire around the container park so that the young people housed therein would feel safer. You couldn’t make it up.

Of course the day after this charade for the press, things get mildly uglier. Registered and unregistered residents of the jungle, faced with eviction by the French state, burn their shelters, the homes that they have made from the scraps around them, the community they have forged in the teeth of opposition and harassment. It is their final act of agency in a situation where they are being systematically stripped of any control over their lives, herded like cattle on to buses in some ghastly though far less grisly reenactment of recent European history. The Prefect’s spokesperson, lacking any sense of irony, misses this.

The rest of us turn away weeping, ashamed.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Firm action brings more questions

So, my young Afghan friend finally got his ticket and was reunited with his brothers two months after the UK home office agreed to take his claim under Dublin 3. In the late autumn warmth of St Pancras station, brothers embraced and we wept tears of joy into our take-away coffee.

And the haunted young man who asked our help three weeks ago is also in the UK, swept up in the sudden rush of Dublin 3 cases the government wanted dealt with before the jungle succumbs to the bulldozer. He is impatiently awaiting reunification with his brother, giving constant updates on WhatsApp about his mood and worries.

Two shafts of light in the darkness of the camp. But we always stress that while you can snatch someone from the jungle in the blink of an eye, it takes weeks, months, possibly even years to extract the jungle from the minds of its former residents (whether refugees or volunteers).

And now the camp is in its end-game. The day of closure has arrived and sullen ranks of residents queue with their meagre possessions to get on buses taking them to the stage on their journey to peace and security. We knew the day was coming and have felt it to be right that comes. But now it's here and tomorrow they'll start pulling physical structures down, I feel a sense of impending bereavement.

And another boy assumes the centre of my attention. His sister is willing to welcome him into her family but with the demolitions getting under way tomorrow and no one being registered today, we are anxious for him. And he represents so many for whom this is just one more uncertainty, insecurity.

Tomorrow I head back through the tunnel clutching my little red book and my association registration allowing me to come and go and do the things we need to do. And I'm wondering what difference are we making? What are Europe's governments and peoples learning as this sea of people ebbs and flows through their lands? How are we allowing God to reshape our thinking about his priorities for us?