Exploring life on the refugee highway

Persecution, violence and war have forcibly displaced nearly 44 million people in the world today. Many of them are living across Europe. The European media is full of sensationalist headlines blaming migrants for causing ‘social unrest’ and ‘stealing our jobs,’ but little is documented about the harsh reality of life on the ‘Refugee Highway.’

Motivated to find out more about the reality of migration, a group of London-based twenty-somethings journeyed across the English Channel to visit refugees in Calais, France. Led by World Outreach International, the aim of the visit was to better understand the circumstances and explore tangible ways to get involved with refugees and asylum seekers.

During the visit, the team had the opportunity to meet and chat with refugees from across the globe whilst helping humanitarian aid projects with food and clothes distribution. The team also gathered each day for prayer and a Bible study on the topic of migration and refugees.

A group of refugees from East Africa invited the team to visit them where they stay. The team entered the abandoned warehouse, ‘Africa House’, through a hole in the wall and joined about 25 refugees huddled on makeshift beds in a corner of the building.

Jared, from North Sudan, told of how he had entered the UK several times over the past five years. Each time the authorities find him and send him back to France. He is tired of going back and forth, and is applying for asylum in France. This will take another couple of years to go through. In the meantime, his life is left in limbo.

At first, sitting on the cold concrete floor, the team felt uncomfortable. They did not know what they could say or do to help these people. But concerns soon abated as the refugees began to talk, warmly sharing their stories.

Reflecting on the visit, one teammate commented, ‘It felt both awkward and humbling. I have been inspired to get involved with migrants in London and raise awareness of the reality behind the media stories.’

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