The Jungle migrant camp in Calais is being “overwhelmed” by people arriving to drop off donations, causing chaos in the camp. One charity worker in the area reported seeing as many as 400 cars and vans turn up in just one day as charitable Brits cross the Channel to donate tents, food and clothing.
Charity workers involved in sorting the donations are now asking for money instead of goods, so that they can build permanent settlements for the migrants seeking a chance to stowaway to Britain in search of a better life.
Bridget Chapman of the Folkestone United community group, which describes itself as a non-political organisation that stands against all forms of intolerance, told Kent on Sunday: “People have been extremely generous but the camp in Calais is becoming completely overwhelmed.
“A lot of people were turning up with stuff that wasn’t needed. It’s great that people want to help but sometimes it gets too overwhelming and the process needs to be managed more strategically.
“I went down there last Sunday and it was just chaos; people bringing aid were queuing for miles and some even had to go back across the Channel because it became so crowded.
“There was a massive panic as drivers opened up the back of their vans which were full to the brim. We’ve seen stuff fall out and get ruined in the mud which is a real shame.
“I’d advise that people make contact with organisations that are working on the ground, get a list of the essentials and then make arrangements.”
Generous Brits have been advised to donate money to the grassroots charity CalAid instead, following an incident earlier this month in which a Belgian convoy of just 35 vans caused a rush of migrants.
James Fisher, a photographer and film maker and one of the organisers of Cal Aid told the Guardian: “The police had to come down and they are now saying they won’t let anyone in without the correct papers.”
He said that donations were welcome but that they had to be given in a “respectful manner,” so as not to dehumanise the migrants.
But he also described the overwhelming generosity shown by Brits eager to help. “One of the donors on our JustGiving page said he was giving everything he had. That was £4.65. That meant so much more than the donations of £100s,” he said.
Cal Aid has procured a 700 metre square warehouse in Calais in order to stockpile donated items until needed, when the cold weather hits later this year.
Jasmin O’Hara from Tunbridge Wells, who also volunteers with Cal Aid said: “the British public as a whole have reacted very positively. The response has been overwhelming and we’ve been inundated with donations. It’s important that everyone has their basic needs covered in any country.
“Donated tents are great in the short term. A lot of people will pass on ones they’ve used at festivals like Glastonbury, for example, but they’re not built to last and we want to create accommodation with longevity.
“What they really need is money, and so far we’ve received about £4,000 in collections. We, and the people on the ground, know what these people really need and we can use that money to buy it.
“If you have old clothes, why not have a jumble sale or a car boot sale? If we keep getting donated clothes and things at this rate it will just become too much.”
Miss O’Hara said the charity were concerned that, as the media move on from the migrants to other issues, donations would drop off. “I’m not naive and I understand that it is a hot topic in the press and everyone is talking about it, which definitely helps with this large push,” she said. “We’re making a documentary soon and we hope that will keep interest levels high and help encourage people to keep donating.”