My name is Shakir and I am a nurse from Pakistan with 14 years of professional experience. I am also a refugee, living in the Calais jungle, and I am providing a medical service for the people living there.
I would like to write about my experiences here, including what I do day-to-day, what kind of treatments I am required to give, the increasing violence from the police to the refugees, and an account of my personal challenges and suggestions.
There are several medical charities including MSF who provide services for refugees, from 9am ’til 5pm. After they have finished their working day, there is no one available to help during an emergency, and so this is when I am most needed. I normally do this work alone, without professional assistance. Sometimes I have some volunteers who help and who are able to drive me to emergencies if necessary.
During the night, refugees sometimes try to jump onto the trains and they often injure themselves. Sometimes there are fights, some refugees are beaten by the police, and some are persecuted by racist gangs. Many refugees are afraid of leaving the camp after nightfall, and many also don’t feel safe inside the camp either.
Regarding the police, there are occasions when they use tear gas against the refugees, and at times they even use rubber bullets. There have been occasions when they have been used together at the same time. Tear gas is often used if there has been a traffic jam and some individuals have tried to get on to lorries passing into the UK. A big problem with this is that tear gas is indiscriminate and spreads over hundreds of metres.
Every time it is used, it affects many people in the vicinity, including families with children. This is unacceptable use of force against innocent people. If the wind has blown the tear gas partly away, rubber bullets will be fired. The police have no consideration for which body part they hit with the rubber bullets, and I have treated people who have been injured in the head and in the face. I have photographs of these injuries.
I am at personal risk when I help people in these situations. Saline solution is used to treat people who have been attacked with tear gas. In order to get to them, and give them an eye wash, I often have to move through the gas myself. I was also hit with a rubber bullet in my chest, which I also have photographic evidence of.
I have treated people who have been beaten with sticks by the police, who have been pepper-sprayed, and who have been bitten by police dogs. Ambulances are often not allowed into the jungle and I have given up calling them. My usual course of action is to give emergency treatment and then I have to hope there will still be a volunteer around to drive the person to hospital as soon as possible.
I would like to talk about some racist gangs who are violent to the refugees. A 15 year old boy was attacked during the night, next to a roundabout outside the camp. I was called and I was able to get to him and give him assistance. He had serious head injuries. I called an ambulance, but it was denied access to that area. So I had to treat him in my medical caravan. He required stitches on his face, and these were done in primitive and unsuitable conditions.
I have had to treat people who have been beaten by the police. A boy came to my caravan, who told me he had been beaten by a stick by the police. He also had head injuries.
Another man was brought to my caravan in the night after being beaten by the police. He had head and leg injuries. I was shocked that the ambulance actually refused my call.
I believe that the people in the police and the CRS have become hardened and are blind to the suffering of the refugees.
They behave with aggression and force as a routine. The injuries I have seen are not part of peace-keeping, crowd-control, or self-defence. They are more serious and I would describe them as grievous bodily harm.
am passionate about helping my fellow refugees but I feel frustrated and sometimes angry that I do not have more assistance and that I have not been able to share the responsibility of this big task.
I would like the refugees can be supported better. People have been through trauma. Firstly from war in their own country, and then from living in the terrible conditions of the camp, including this violence. They are likely to suffer from emotional problems afterwards. I would advise them to have access to counselling to help them get over the trauma of their experiences.
Another part of this process is seeking justice for the people who have experienced police or gang brutality, and prosecuting the people who are responsible. There needs to be more enforcement of laws that will protect these people, and to make sure that this does not keep happening.