There are currently 59.5 million people displaced around the world, a global phenomenon unprecedented since the World War II. At the start of this project, a mere 5,000 of them resided in Calais, which has been described as one of the worst refugee camps in the world. It was a wasteland, home to a melting pot of cultures existing side by side, each country has made their own camp, from Afghanistan to Eritrea, to Syria to Sudan to Iraq and beyond.
The ‘Jungle’ was an assault on the senses, human beings languishing in diabolical, unsanitary conditions in the centre of civilised Western Europe. Mountains of rubbish, left to fester in the heat. A mere handful of portable toilets, literally overflowing. A sea of ramshackled homes as far as the eye can see, made from tents, tarpaulins and pieces of wood, loving crafted and erected as best they could with whatever materials available, personalised and decorated with colours and symbols of home, flags of Afghanistan, Sudan and Syria welcoming you, along with a cheery ‘hello’ as you enter.
The overwhelming majority of those who lived in camp had fled war, violence and persecution, suffering unspeakable tragedies, and travelling countless miles on perilous journeys, losing everything, sometimes everyone they’ve ever loved, in the hope to find a better life in Europe, in the hope to be reunited with their families already in the UK. Instead they were greeted with fences and barriers, and were forced to live in squalor on the doorstep of two of the richest and most powerful countries in the world.
Despite these obstacles, the strength of the human spirit prevailed in the camp, no matter what situation it finds itself in, it adapts and rises to the challenge, it doesn’t lie down and accept defeat, it created make-shift community and art centres, places of worship and congregation out of the most meagre of materials and creates a community.
A life, out of nothing.