Our final week in France has passed quietly. The camp continues to drop in numbers and in this week alone some 30 of the children have disappeared. Amongst the disappeared children, some of them had been with us since we first started before Christmas. But others of the children had arrived in the camp barely a fortnight previously.
The very high turnover of children shows the redoubled determination of families to get out of the camp. We are seeing more and more of our usual children traipsing and limping back into camp in the mornings having spent all night trying to jump onto lorries and trains. Previously rising positive feelings about staying in France seem to be in decline again at the moment, as the main interaction between the children and the French state has become the police again. When their main interaction was French teachers, the children became very positive about France and the possibility of staying in France. Now that their main interaction is a negative one with police, negative feelings about France and staying in the country have come to the fore again. It’s a shame, but we remember how quickly previously negative feelings were displaced when the children had the chance to work with French teachers in School. So we are confident that this will happen again in September.
Perhaps our most cheering piece of news this week was hearing that our 16 year old teaching assistant is safe and sound. He went missing last week. He has been threatened by the gangs and we were fearful in case he might have come to harm from them. We heard this week that he had actually got himself smuggled to England because he just couldn’t take any more violence and pressure from the smuggler gangs. However he apparently did it in a Freezer lorry and he was so injured in the freezing conditions that he has taken several days to recover enough to be able to tell people that he is okay. We are not sure exactly where he is, or what his status is, but we are very pleased indeed to hear that he is apparently still alive.
During our last week we have said good bye to the children remaining here in the camp. We have talked to them enthusiastically again about the French schools which they are transitioning into in September. We have made it very clear, repeatedly, that we are completely and utterly supportive of the Mayor’s plans to integrate the children into the French school system and so we are very happy to finish at this point and allow French teachers to have the rest of the summer holiday to work with the children in preparation for September school start.
In preparation for withdrawing we have written to the local administration and we have distributed notices in Kurdish and Farsi so that parents were also clear about the handover and our withdrawal. We had a number of parents come to say farewell and thank you for supporting their children over the last few months. Some of the volunteers and children talked about having a party on our last day but we were not keen on that idea. We wanted to fade out of the camp gently and quietly. We stepped in quietly when mainstream provision was not available and now we should step out as equally quietly when mainstream schooling is available.