Jungle Books Library and Kids Cafe’s Sikunder explains the importance of a stable, safe place for unaccompanied minors in the Calais camp. Humanitarian refugees work incredible effectively, in many ways that professional aid workers can not.
The Jungle Books Kids Restaurant was set up in March 2016 after the demolition of the South section of the Calais Jungle refugee camp to provide meals for the estimated 300+ unaccompanied minors still living in the camp. Run by both refugee and non-refugee volunteers, as well as the children themselves, it is a vital service in the camp, as well an integral part of the community of refugees and volunteers.
Mary and Sikunder, co-founders of Jungle Books Library, a school, library and community space established in July 2015, began the Kids Cafe to protect the children living in the camp, now left without guidance, safety, or security. Without families, formal education, or protection of the state, children are the most vulnerable group to be caught in the refugee crisis.
Entirely run on donations, the Kids Cafe not only provides two hot meals a day to any child in the camp, but is a safe space for children of the Jungle to spend their days and nights. The restaurant acts as a home, where children can eat, watch TV, play pool, play games, and hang out in the evenings, and allows Mary and Sikunder to keep an eye on them using a registering system: a much needed service following the shocking news that 129 minors went missing from the Calais Jungle during the South eviction.
On Wednesday 4th August, the restaurants of the Jungle were served an eviction notice. This followed two weeks of intrusive and demoralising raids of the 20+ establishments providing food for the residents of the camp , where all food was seized and disposed of by the Departmental directorate for the protection of civilian populations, DDPP and a 150-strong police presence.
The Kids Cafe was one of these establishments, and was unable to feed the children of the Jungle for the past two weeks.
On Wednesday 10th August, a court hearing in Lille decided whether or not to totally evict the restaurants and cafes, including Kids Cafe. That Friday, we got the happy news that the judge has recognized the importance of the restaurants and shops in the “Jungle” in Calais. Because of this decision, there will be no expulsions of the camp.
We are grateful that the trial judicial acknowledged the paramount importance of restaurants and shops such as safe spaces for the community, where people can avoid the police repression and resolving conflicts internels. The restaurants provide a safe space to recharge mobile phones where residents can sleep when they wouldn’t have nowhere to go. One of the main charities working in Calais, Help Refugees’ has aired figures showing that the population of the jungle has now surpassed 9000 people. In considering these figures, we can’t underestimate the importance of the restaurants as a source of food and shelter.
We are delighted that the judge rejected the request of the prefect of pas-de-Calais for the expulsion of restaurants and shops, and we hope that this decision marks a change towards the recognition of the inadequate supply of food and services provided by French authoritie and a need to transition to more sanitary conditions and worthy for the people in the camp.