The first time I saw the living conditions refugees were forced to live under in the refugee camp in Calais I was awe struck, I could never have imagined I would see such a sad spectacle in Europe and I hoped with all my soul we would react and mend the terrible affront to those people’s dignity and to our humanity as quickly as humanly possible. It didn’t happen, Calais is still a calamitous humanitarian crisis, to make matters worse the French government and French authorities, have allowed the same deplorable situation to foster elsewhere and in even worst conditions. I thought things couldn’t get much worse when I first saw Calais but when I saw the refugee camp in Grande Synthe I had a bitter surprise, they can get worse and there they are indeed. The camp is located in a public park near a shopping mall, nearly all the refugees lodge in camping tents that wallow in a sea of mud, there is barely any running water to support that many people, drinking water is unavailable, there are no hot showers, Chemical toilets were placed recently but before there was only a hand full, garbage collection is sluggish causing the proliferation of rats, they practically live under the refugees’ tents and at night you can see them scavenging through the garbage that piles up everywhere. There are only two Belgian citizens organizations that work in the camp to try to fill the enormous hole left by the neglect of the French government, they distribute of basic supplies such as tents, blankets and some clothe and the makeshift Kitchen set up by one of them gives out a limited ration of warm food that is not nearly enough to feed all of the refugees.
The camp in Grande Synthe is made up of around two thousand people of whom most are Kurdish refugees fleeing persecution in Middle Eastern countries such as Iraq, Iran and Syria, they escape ethnic persecution and upon arriving in Europe the treatment they receive is unworthy of a land that presumably stands for liberty and human dignity. Perhaps somewhere down the line we’ll look back at this persecution and like the Armenian genocide will dare call it such, but the fundamental question that concerns all Europeans at the moment is, what kind of society allows human beings to live in such conditions?
© Daniel Botelho