Update for Baloo’s youth centre

Baloo’s new youth centre has been open less than 2 weeks before news came

through that the Calais Prefecture had announced that they planned to bulldoze

the entire Southern section of the camp. Stating that there were only 800 – 1000

refugees living in the zone that was to be evacuated, the Baloo’s team worked

alongside Help Refugees and L’Auberge des Migrants to conduct a census of the

Southern section to disprove this statistic. The results of the census have now

established that there are in fact over 3,400 people living in this part of the camp,

with over 400 of them being children of which 291 are unaccompanied. These

figures both demonstrate the magnitude of this crisis and the vulnerability of the

children. Although the Jungle is no place for a child, the Prefecture’s inability to

put into place a suitable alternative has meant that the children are probably

more safe in the camp where organisations can keep an eye on them and cater to

their needs.

However, what this announcement has done is create further

confusion and fear amongst the boys. The new youth centre was meant to

represent stability but instead recent events have meant that the building and

the boy’s protection are under threat. Having suffered tremendously in the past

the new youth centre planned to help rebuild the boys sense of trust in adults.

However, this announcement has dealt a significant blow to our progress as it

confirms to the boys their thoughts that they are outcasts, unwanted by society.

It is expected that the French authorities post an eviction notice in the near

future. Therefore the team are doing their best to prepare for every eventuality

in the meantime so that we can be in the best possible position to support the

minors during this distressing period. However with a lack of suitable

alternatives provided by the Prefecture, it is believed that the vast majority of

unaccompanied minors from the Jungle will go under the radar and drift off to

other camps in and around Northern France. This is a real danger due to the lack

of child protection measures put in place in other areas.

Although the talk of demolition took over much of the camp, it once more

demonstrated the importance of the youth centre as a sanctuary for children to

forget about life outside these walls. Therefore the Baloo’s team continued to run

the centre normally with activities occurring throughout the week. One

extremely successful activity was an art workshop where the boys got to draw

whatever they fancied. One unaccompanied minor drew his journey across the

mountains and sea (in the pictures seen below). With the boys’ permission, their

work will be exhibited at the migration museum for an exhibition entitled ‘Call

Me By My Name’ for refugee week in June 2016 (http://migrationmuseum.org/)

20160213_162205 20160213_164130

As well as creativity, sports have also dominated the week. Thanks to Help

Refugees, the Baloo’s team were lucky enough to have a journalist from The

Guardian come down on Wednesday to interview some of the staff and write a

report on Jungle United Football Club (see:

http://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/feb/19/refugees-football-calais-

camp-hope-heartache). With the sun shining, the football turnout was extremely

successful as shown in the pictures below (credited to Felix Clay).

12744471_1561992057453845_1646858623436975924_n

Finally in the last 10 days we have given out 10 bikes and 8 mobile phones with

£20 worth of credit. These mobile phones are going to some of our most

vulnerable boys who have not contacted their families in a long time. It is hoped

that the opportunity to speak to their parents will improve their wellbeing,

especially in times of such uncertainty. We would not have been able to do this

without the help and support of Refugee Aid and other volunteers that have

made donations, so thank you!