Morecambe man’s fears for refugees at ‘Jungle’ camp

Tents and wooden shacks where refugees live in 'The Jungle' camp near Calais, France.
Tents and wooden shacks where refugees live in 'The Jungle' camp near Calais, France.

As Pete Moser played with his 18-month granddaughter on Morecambe beach his thoughts turned to the previous day.

Just 24 hours earlier Pete was watching two other young children playing in sand in very different circumstances.

Kathryn MacDonald and Pete Moser with Hamid from Afghanistan and a generator they bought for the camp.

Kathryn MacDonald and Pete Moser with Hamid from Afghanistan and a generator they bought for the camp.

“The day before, I was fixing the door on a caravan for an Iraqi woman and her kids were playing outside on the sand surrounded by filth and litter.

“So I said to my granddaughter ‘how lucky we are’. But what prospects do those children have?”

Morecambe musician Pete had just returned home from a week-long visit to the Calais refugee camp known as ‘The Jungle’.

He and his wife Kathryn MacDonald lived with its 5,000 inhabitants and saw the squalid living conditions first hand.

A basic shop on The Jungle camp.

A basic shop on The Jungle camp.

They also met migrants who are in limbo because they left their home countries and can’t get into Britain.

Pete and Kathryn decided to visit the camp after hearing how the French authorities all but destroyed it in March, moving in with demolition teams, riot police and tear gas as migrants tried to block the bulldozing.

“We have a social 
conscience and we were disturbed by the idea of large numbers of people living in such terrible conditions on the other side of the channel,” said Pete.

“So we borrowed a friend’s camper van and put out a notice on social media saying we needed help. Within three days we had collected loads of food and clothes and raised £1800.”

When the couple arrived in France, they found thousands of people living in wooden shacks and tents, sleeping on hard floors or carpets.

“We helped with distribution of food and we bought a generator so they could have power and Wi-Fi,” said Pete.

“I did music workshops in a volunteer-run youth club on the site. There were about 150 people under 18, maybe more. There is a women and children section but 90% are men - from Eritrea, Sudan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq. All leaving their countries because of persecution of some sort, not because there is a pot of gold in England but because they are being forced out by the Taliban or by dictatorships. They have taken enormous risks to get here and a lot have relatives or friends in England.”

Pete and Kathryn met many ordinary people and were moved by their stories.

“I was sitting playing my accordion outside one of the free kitchens. There were queues of men. An Eritrean guy was sat listening. He spoke perfectly good English. He came over on the boat from Libya because of persecution from the dictatorship in his country. His brother is in Liverpool. But the only way he can get to Britain would be to smuggle himself in. There is nobody to help him.

“Kathryn met a student from Afghanistan who had to leave school because he didn’t have a beard and he was persecuted for it.”

Pete said his father Claus would have been startled by the treatment of the refugees. The late Lord Moser, a leading statistician, himself came over to Britain in 1936 from his native Germany.

“He was welcomed into this country. I’m sure he had proper toilets and good social and medical care.

“80 years later we are leaving people across the channel who are in need. And they want to come here to contribute.”

Pete has invited anyone who would like to help to email him at pete@petermoser.com

“We need to tell people that it’s real and happening.

“The media calls them refugees. But they are people like you and me, with names.

“Imagine if Manchester was destroyed by bombing. Their libraries, theatres, shops all destroyed and all the people had to leave. Where would they go? That’s what’s happening here.

“There is nobody starving. That’s the best you can say. But there’s no hope.”