"We are humans, not animals."—Karzan, 35, an Iraqi nurse who is living with his wife Sharmin, their one-and-a-half-year-old son Hemn, and his brother-in-law "in a wooden structure, half the size of a small garden shed," in a refugee camp at the edge of Calais, France, which "is now home to more than 6,000 people, many of them vulnerable and unwell," and which "has doubled in the space of a month, and quadrupled from around 1,500 in early summer."
There is no UN or Red Cross presence; no one is charge. The French state accommodates about 200 women and children in a converted holiday centre on the edge of the camp but there are too many now to fit in the centre, so families live where they can. "It is the largest slum in Europe and probably the worst," [François Guennoc, a coordinator with the main local charity, L'auberge des Migrants] says.Every day, I see news articles and op-eds in which Serious People ask what is going to happen if Europe and the US help all of these refugees. And all I can think in response is: But what is going to happen if we don't?
...In the past month the camp has become denser; previously, tents were huddled together according to the geographical origin of the people living there – Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Ethiopia, Eritrea. Now the sections have melded into one huge mass. In the absence of help from the state, people are helping themselves. The noise of hammering is everywhere, as refugees knock up basic wooden frames that become, in the space of a day, restaurants and shops, hairdressers and phone-charging booths, arranged along an informal high street. Volunteers from across Europe have built a school, a day-care centre for children, a library, a couple of mosques, a church, a refugee advice centre, an art therapy tent and medical centres.
But none of this does much to detract from the squalor and misery of the camp. There is rubbish everywhere, discarded sleeping bags, rotting food, broken shoes half buried in the sand. Small cooking fires are burning all over the place, stoked with torn-up plastic sheeting, creating acrid smoke. On Saturday night, a gas canister exploded, and several huts were burned to the ground.
..."What if David Cameron's baby was living like this? There is no difference between this baby and an English baby," Sharmin says.