This week it was particularly tense in the camp due to the forseen eviction of the Southern part of the camp. Despite being aware that France holds less than a third of the beds that they need in resettlement programmes across the country, they have confirmed that the eviction process will take place next week – declaring that everyone needs to evacuate the area by 8pm on Tuesday, when they plan to bulldoze this site. We have been advised that there are approximately 3,000 in that space.
Naturally, residents in the camp are dealing with a lot of frustration, fear and conflict due to this uncertainty. This was apparent to Fawzia and Jess as soon as their work started in the camp on Thursday, where they visited the new Médecins du Monde France clinic which Art Refuge UK hopes to work in on Thursdays.
When they arrived early on Friday morning in the camp there was already a heavy police presence.
In the art therapy group in the Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) clinic that followed, a number of references were made to police violence and abuse from anti-migrant groups in France over the past weeks. One young man responded to a swollen finger from police abuse by drawing a hand and filling it in with yellow colour “so that ‘al nour’ (the light) can heal it”.
Another young man from Kuwait shared another police incident when crossing Europe by creating a handcuffed figure with a baton catching the side of his face. He was new to the Art Refuge UK space and had not spoken of his departure from Kuwait or his journey before to anyone. He told the group about the journey and his need to mourn the drowning of his best friend who he had traveled with. He then re-enacted his final farewell with his mother in plasticine, and their embrace.
So as well as the tenser moments and frustrations the art therapy space held many softer moments too.
Two young men from Egypt spent some time teaching themselves to knit, keen to make themselves a hat. The process of knitting felt soothing and offered them some warmth in difficult times.
Fawzia and Jess also picked up their work with the young animator from Iran, who quickly engaged others in the thinking through of possible stories for an animation that followed the journey of a young refugee across Europe to seek safety. This led to some important reflection on people’s personal journeys. The sharing and trusting which was done within this small group and also other work throughout the day, resonated across the room. This allowed individuals who were particularly struggling, to realize that there was refuge, solidarity and understanding in the camp.