Dr Nick in Calais: Day Seven, final report - the testimony of a boy aged twelve
With one day to go before I return to the UK inevitably one is bound up in a huge melange of emotions, not least the reflection that I can just 'dip in and out' of these people's lives at will and travel to the destination that they are all so desperate to reach, - namely the UK.
I simply wave a ticket and a passport in front of border controls, while they are seemingly trapped indefinitely.
The emotions are brought to a greater intensity by Ahmed (not his real name) aged 12, I repeat, aged 12, who is on his own in the camp. He sits in front of me in my tiny caravan telling me his story through Sami, my interpreter, with a deadpan expression.
He's lacking in any emotion until I ask him if he ever cries, at which point he laughs softly - a laughter of cynicism. He speaks and sounds like an adult. But he would, wouldn't he?
Hasn't his childhood has been stripped from him? Who can imagine how damaged he must be?
Ahmed's father entered the UK three years ago illegally, having felt that it was too dangerous for him to stay in Afghanistan. He was subsequently deported back to Afghanistan.
Ahmed never saw him on his return, but believes he was killed by the Taliban. His uncle told Ahmed that it was too dangerous for him to stay in Afghanistan and his only future was in Europe and - at best - in the UK.
The uncle takes Ahmed to the border with Iran where he meets other families with three more children. Money changes hands between his uncle and the traffickers and, over the next two months, the group makes its way across Europe to Calais.
"Were the traffickers ok?" "They were ok!"
"Which countries did you pass through?" "I don't know".
"How long have you been in the camp?" "Nine months" "How many times have you tried to get to the UK?" (Nervous laughter) "Sometimes nine times in one week"
"Are there any other young people here in the camp that you can relate to?" " Many of them have left and gone to UK on lorries"
Meanwhile, outside the caravan, the rain has begun to fall. It is cold and there is a high wind blowing quantities of paper plates with the remains of last night's supper, and plastic litter into the air. The tents surrounding the first aid caravans flap wildly in the wind.
Groups of people from Sudan, Iraq and Eritrea wearing winter clothes and hoodies walk aimlessly along the track. Their heads are bent against the wind and rain - the litter and the people - the flotsam and jetsam of this God forsaken place.
When I curse the rain on behalf of these people, I am reprimanded by Sami who tells me of a surah in the Holy Koran which states that 'rain is a blessing'.
Sami talks to me of the breakdown of trust between people in Afghanistan and I have heard this from the Sudanese and the Eritreans. "We don't trust each other any more" "Are you a Government informer?" "Are you Taliban/Isis/Daesh?"
"What about here in the' jungle'?" "Well of course there are problems from time to time like the fight between the Afghans and the Sudanese three nights ago. These will happen from time to time given the conditions under which we are living, the families and the horrors that we have left at home and the tension of complete uncertainty for the future - and that are ever present"
There is a pause. Then, with tears in his eyes, he says: "BUT ONLY ANIMALS LIVE IN JUNGLES".
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