Speaking for Ourselves

My journey from Calais

My journey from Calais

Sabrin Jemal

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - My journey from Calais

Anonymous, 18 year old female talks about what it’s like travelling from Calais to London undocumented, with stories of squatting, warehouses and arrests.

“WE are usually up quiet late during the night, so I wake up at around midday. We were staying at an uninhabited warehouse in Calais. That’s in France, by the way. It was massive and spacious – big enough to hold 600 of us. We all leave and walk for miles to a construction site where there are buckets of water. They may have needed it for their work, or cement. Me and a few others (the more able ones, should I say) would sneak in and take the water, and deliver it to the others. Water was not easy for us to get, and when we did get it, there was a riot. We needed the water to drink, wash our faces and bodies, and wash our clothes. Once we had enough, we all return to the warehouse. There were so many of us there. We would just sit there, doing nothing. The silence is painful! We would hope for time to fly by. At 2pm, Caritas would arrive. They are an international charity, run by Catholics, they come to bring us food and more water. With 600 of us, it wasn’t easy. They would bring us bread, yoghurt and sauce. I often didn’t take any. There were so many children and elderly, they needed it more than I did. We queue up for ages and it would be the same thing every day – there was only ever enough food for 300 people, half of what we were. So we would have to share it between us. When we really didn’t have enough, we would put all of our little bits of two pence pieces together and buy some bread or something from a really cheap market. That hardly ever happened. The people from Caritas would analyse everyone’s faces when they got their food. Sounds dumb, but that was the only way they could make sure that no one was getting more food than they needed. So we really were surviving on what we were given.

I go back to the warehouse that we were staying at. It’s completely empty. We had piled it up with blankets and other bits and bobs. It was freezing in there! After all of that, it’s about 5 o’clock in the afternoon. There is absolutely nothing to do, so we just talk. I had been there for about 3 months,  and we had all become comfortable with each other. It sounds strange, I know, but… we were like one big family. We all had a common ground you see. We would talk about why we were there, where we had come from, and, why did we all need to get to England? It was unbelievable how many people were like me. We came from all walks of life, all parts of the world, and yet here we were, cooped up in a warehouse in a little city in France, trying to get to England. It’s 8 o’clock now. It gets colder and colder, so I wrap up. I put on every single item of clothing I own, and so would everyone else. No one was allowed to bring anything in, not even phones. When we're  dressed and warm enough, we head out to the jungle. Well, we called it the jungle. It was really just a bit of green. We would get there at around 9 o’clock and I wait until 1 o’clock in the morning for the ‘people smuggler’ and – oh wait, that’s what they’re called, aren’t they? He goes off to a parking area, where loads of trucks stand. He opens them, I never knew how, as they were always locked and he never had any keys. Inside, there are boxes to be delivered overseas. He finds the ones that are labeled ‘ENGLAND’ and sneaks people in. There wasn’t always space, in fact there hardly was. Each day, we queue for hours, hoping. It’s the time that we go in now. I hope it goes according to plan. I really do. We wait inside the back of the lorry. The truck would drive to the border of France, towards a ship that sails to England.

Inside the truck were the boxes and of course, us. The police come aboard and search the ship for “illegal” travelers like us. They couldn’t get into every lorry but they did have a device. I think it was called a co2 detector. They stick it inside and it detects breathing, so we have to leave and return to our ‘home’ and wait for the next day. I’ve lost count now. Oh, my day is never the same. You have no idea how unpredictable life can be in this situation. Today I just have to go back ‘home’, but yesterday I got arrested, the day before I had everything stolen from me, and tomorrow, well…Only God knows, really.”

The story as told to Sabrin Jemal, who met the young female when she eventually arrived to the UK in 2010