Nine months after dismantling the “Jungle”, several hundred people who fled conflict, repression or economic insecurity in their countries for Europe continue to live in France's Calais in deplorable conditions, desperately awaiting their chance to be smuggled by truck into England via the tunnel that passes beneath the English Channel.
The challenges for these asylum seekers and migrants are many, including surveillance and periodic harassment by the ubiquitous police force, the outright absence of living space and hygiene, language barriers, and the lack of electricity and an Internet connection to communicate with family and friends and stay informed.
On that last one, an initiative called InfoBus is trying to help. It's a truck sporting a large antenna and covered with information posters and notices aimed at the asylum seekers and migrants of Calais.
We encountered the InfoBus when we returned to Calais one year after our first tripthere to volunteer with the group Help Refugees. We were revisiting the organization's enormous warehouse, in particular, its “community kitchen”, which prepares some 2,500 meals each day before distributing them either at the sole authorized distribution site or by roaming the streets. We found that the organisations’ quality of work and volunteers’ resolution are as strong as ever, but the asylum seekers and migrants’ situation is definitely worse than it was last year.
The InfoBus spent the morning there recharging batteries that ran electronic equipment kept in the back. Its coordinator, Loan Torondel, gladly answered our questions.