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Calais, April 26-27, 2023

There are signs of Spring in Calais, dandelions and forget-me-nots growing in the large field of rocks that covers a former living site, the rocks an attempt by the local prefecture to prevent refugees sleeping there. Since our last visit, more of the stones have been moved to one side, making way for larger areas of green space.

Yesterday, the UK’s Illegal Migration Bill passed its next stage in Parliament; in spite of this around one hundred people crossed the English Channel last night.

Yesterday there were 350 people in the day centre, many of them new faces. There was a calmer ambience after a difficult last few days. Tensions have reportedly been high.

The past couple of days have felt for us like ebbs and flows of people, activity, needs and emotion. Unusually The Community Table was anchored to a wall, giving it a feeling of a boat docked in port. In spite of the day centre being quieter, there was lots of movement with people coming and going to, from and around the table, sometimes settling in brief periods of collective calm. This change of tempo both mirrored the wider ambience and also reflected the imperative in this border town to keep on the move.

Plasticine was a much used resource as was the map beneath it. One young man who joined us for both days, decided to make a traditional coffee set which was placed on a mirrored table to meet the occasion. There was general delight at the little installation, popcorn was added and then a green bottle of water and cups brought over from the other side of the table.

Words by Bobby Lloyd & Miriam Usiskin.

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