How cooking make Calais migrants feel “human”

The morning after a teenage boy fied from being hit by a train passing through the Eurotunnel in Calais, the mood among the 3,000 residents living in the nearby squats is low.

Despite financially tough circumstances, I discovered that residents of “The Jungle” camp prefer to cook food at their tents rather than queuing for food to be fed like "animals" - my hosts didn't let me pay a single penny towards costs.

Original words published in Munchies, VICE - below are selected entries from the article plus images.

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"Let's go get some beer and head back to the tent for some food. I know these English people [volunteers] are helping us and want to protest against the police who used tear gas but to be honest, I just want to drink and forget this life. The boy who died is from my country and today, I don't want any trouble."

Saif* has been in the squats of Calais for four months. He traveled from Libya to Italy and across the Mediterranean after failing to get work in Egypt, where he lived as a refugee following the outbreak of the second Sudanese war.

"We need to survive by eating and drinking as we wait for good news," he says. "But I don't like queuing for one hour just to get hot food cooked by somebody else. It makes me feel like an animal but this is because the French government don't give us a home."
Saif begins lunch with a tin of sweetcorn and some chocolate biscuits from the ASDA Smart Price range.

"We hate green peas," his cousin Mostafa* laughs. "And what is this 'baked beans' and 'spaghetti hoops?' It is not food! I thought in England you can have a good life, but this food is bad. Worse than Sudan!"

To prepare his main dish, Saif lights a fire with wood stored outside his tent. He boils water in a small kettle to cook pasta and serves with tomato sauce on a big paper plate for everyone to share. As he adds nutmeg and pepper in an attempt to inject some spice into the dull-looking dish, an exhausted friend from Kuwait catches sight of the fresh food and joins us.

"Thanks for this, my friend," says Ahmed*, taking a plate. "I'm so tired and hungry from running because last night I tried to go to England when the boy died in the Channel Tunnel."

"I tried to get onto a truck about five times but I am still here," Ahmed continues. "I came here two weeks ago on my own because my family—mother, father, brother—are all in Edgware Road. But I couldn't catch up with that boy—the police beat me, my shoulders hurt."

Ahmed eats quickly, albeit awkwardly to overcome body aches. Saif and Mostafa reach out for cans of Perlembourg stashed in a blue plastic bag underneath a pile of donated clothes. Bought from a Lidl supermarket around 3 kilometres away, making the trek to buy beer gives the men some notion of normality.
"We can save money to go to supermarket because we don't spend money on food English people give to us," Ahmed explains. "The air is nice and we see cars, houses, life. It takes one hour but we like it. When we walk there and drink, we forget about the hard life in the camp."

The conversation soon takes a darker turn for Saif, who shows more vulnerability as the alcohol kicks in.

Calais, October 2015

Read full article here.