A volunteer teacher in the Calais Jungle camp has set up a petition to save the children’s café, which is at risk of being demolished tomorrow.
The Kids’ Café provides 200 meals a day, English and French classes, and asylum advice for unaccompanied minors in the camp and is at risk of being demolished alongside dozens of other restaurants, shops and amenities.
A French court was due to make a decision yesterday (Wednesday 10th August), however, following discussions, the presiding judge said that the future of the restaurants, shops and amenities, including the café, would be revealed on Friday 12th August.
The online petition, ‘Save the Kids Café’, was started by volunteer teacher Hari Reed, and already has more than 100,000 supporters on www.change.org.
“The Kids’ Café is so important to the lives of the most vulnerable in the Calais camp,” said Ms Reed, 23, from south London.
“While teaching English in the Café I got to know many of the boys individually and it is so significant for them to have somewhere they can go to eat, play, study, charge their phones and feel secure.
“I am urging as many people as possible to sign this petition, I truly believe the demolition of this space would have a negative impact on the already difficult lives of these young people.”
Ms Reed said most of the children who avail of the café are from Afghanistan, adding that it also puts on music classes and workshops in subjects such as science and drama.
The petition’s web page points out that The Kids’ Café is not a business.
‘Our cafe is a vital way to register and keep track of minors. More importantly it is one of the few spaces left the kids can call their own,’ reads the petition.
‘The French authorities are deciding whether to close all ‘businesses’ on this date. The Kids’ Café is NOT a business. It is part of Jungle Books’ not-for-profit organisation, run completely on donations, and all food distributed to the kids is free.
‘The food is of good quality and preparation and distribution is clean and safe. With the Kids’ Café gone, the jungle will simply become an even more dangerous place for unaccompanied minors.’
At yesterday’s Court hearing in Lille, the Prefect’s representative argued that the shops and restaurants in the camp were causing “serious disturbances of public order” as they “are places for illegal sales”. He also claimed that migrants are “exploited” there and have access to items such as cutter blades, which can be used to attack trucks.
However, lawyer Norbert Clément described the shops and restaurants as places of socialisation, explaining that new comers to the camp were welcomed and informed of where to find clothes and how to contact members of their community.
Mr Clément also argued that services from the state were now at saturation point.
He noted that the 1,500 places in the interim care centre (CAP) were now occupied, and other centres were also “saturated”. As well as this, he revealed that queues for meals at the Jules Ferry centre were so big they were causing tension between the refugees.
The representative of the Prefecture responded by claiming that the state could offer “5,000 complimentary meals each day” and go further if necessary. He also promised that a centre for unaccompanied minors would appear in Calais “very soon”.
To sign the petition visit: www.change.org/p/save-the-kids-cafe-sauvons-le-café-des-enfants
Picture: Children play in the Jungle camp, in Calais, northern France. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus).