I read a play about events that unfolded (or were set in) the refugee camp that had sprung up in Calais. The characters vary from refugees from the middle east, Africa and Asia to helpers and ‘refugees’ from the UK as well as French authorities.
Just reading the play made me angry and sad and helpless in equal measure. I had read about the theatre in the Jungle and I had half planned on taking a year off to go there myself when I heard that the camp was being dissolved. That, as well as the image of that young boy on the beach broke my heart.
I think the issues, the many layers, the incomprehensibility of the issue and the utter lack of solutions come across very well in this piece. It is such a complex issue and no one person, no one state has the answer, but I think that we, who lived in the west and have thus far been lucky enough not to experience war have a responsibility to share our luck with people who have lost everything they hold dear. I think the play made a very good point about the emergence of our cities and settlements and in showing that our ancestors have all at one point been in the same positions, but unfortunately it was too long ago…
I think this play makes it quite easy to recognise yourself in the characters, both refugees and volunteers. It humanises the strangers, it shows them as individual people and not as a threatening mass. At the same time it raises ethical questions about the motivation to help.
I think another important point that the play addresses is the fatigue that has taken a hold of Europe and the neglect that has followed. Because we are not used to war ourselves, because we can’t relate to those strangers, and because we (as a society, not necessarily individuals, though I very unfortunately know some who actually think so) seem to believe that our lives are more important, that it should be Swiss people, Europeans, etc. first. I remember a very angry conversation I had with a former friend of mine who was of that opinion and I just can not understand how anyone can think people are worth differently. It made me very upset at the time.
And yet, I noticed that I too have become complacent. I have not looked up the development of the refugee camp in a long while. I have not researched what happened to the people who lived there. I tried to convince my family to offer my grandparents house, which is empty most of the year to the council as housing for refugees, but I did not pursue it when they said no. After initial desires to help I have fallen back into my comfortable life, and while I am still outraged any time another atrocity, the slavery in Libya for example, comes to light, I pacify my conscience by donating a money to somewhere and then I move on. I have become numb and this play has really shown me that. I think it should be performed for every politician, every country leader, every school class, in every site of employment to re-kindle our humanity.