‘We’d Settle For Animal Rights’


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Human rights activist Bairbre Flood, from Cork, is just back from the refugee camp in Calais, France.

She writes:

The French are out walking their dogs every evening. We see them on the streets minding their dogs while, some miles down the road, people are living and dying in the camp. Will they say they didn’t know what was going on when their children ask them? Will we say we didn’t know what was going on when our children ask?

Driving through Calais on the first night, groups of men walked through the shuttered town on their desperate mission to jump the train and find refuge in England. Ghost-like, from another world, their faces exhausted and determined. Many of these people will fall off the trains, sucked up into the tunnel and forgotten by all but their friends and family who see this happening and still have to go on. Why would someone risk life and limb to get to England?

A man from Afghanistan showed me a scar from his wrist to his elbow which he’d gotten trying to jump the train. ‘I’m not trying anymore. I will stay here for now. I’m here 6 months, but I can’t go home. The Taliban will kill me, it’s too dangerous to go home.’

He was clearing an area to set up a café on the camp. Whenever we passed that day he was clearing rubbish, filling in soil. He told us the Irish could eat there anytime, for helping him clean up the space. ‘I have to do something or I’ll go crazy.’ He had soft eyes, a warm face. His friend started talking to us.

‘When I was 12 my father sold our land so we could escape. When he was coming back he was robbed and murdered. Since then I’ve been wandering. I got to England and worked there, but they arrested me one day and deported me back to Afghanistan.

‘I came all the way back here, walking for months. In Hungary they beat me and put me in jail, but I know how to get around.’

He took a drag from his cigarette and grimaced. He must have had some creativity and strength to survive even this long. I thought back to when I was 12 and what I would have done. I don’t think I’d have lasted a year with all that’s stacked against ‘migrants’ in this Dickensian parallel universe.

We heard many stories of horrendous boat journeys, months walking across Europe – detained in each country, sometimes jailed or beaten by police. And then arriving in Calais to absolute neglect.

Apart from citizen aid, they would have nothing at all. As it is, there are few toilets (overflowing), E.coli in the couple of water taps, rubbish piling up and sporadic food/clothes distributions. There’s also incredible people who’ve built a library, a church/community centre, cafés, shops and restaurants – again, the creativity and strength of the people living here is mind blowing.

Suzanne’s café is a little oasis.

‘I want it to be somewhere people feel safe and can relax,’ Suzanne’s husband tells us. ‘We came by boat from Libya. It cost thousands for the boat trip, but we had to do it. We couldn’t stay.’

They brought out sweet coffee and tea while we were talking. Everywhere we went, people offered us water, tea, coffee, food, whatever they had – which was often almost nothing.

This generosity and welcome is in stark contrast to how the French authorities treat them. On the first day there, some of our team came across the police pepper-spraying women crossing a bridge. They leaned out of the squad car and sprayed right into their faces, just as these women were walking. You can see in the video, above, it was a completely unprovoked attack.

We also heard first-hand stories of beatings by the police, dogs being set upon them and detention and torture in cells.

‘We’re in the 21st century, but David Cameron is in another age.’ one Sudanese man said to us, ‘Why does he do what he does? He’s a donkey. Every night I go to the train. They took the muzzle off the dog, they beat us. Our sisters fall, they’re electrocuted, we are being killed.’

His friends stand around and shake their heads, they all ask us why we don’t want them.

We came back to Ireland after just four days on camp. None of us wanted to leave. It’s hard to describe the feeling of leaving people to this existence, of knowing what’s going on right in the heart of our so-called democratic continent. The trucks continue their journeys safely and people are trapped or attempting dangerous escapes.

‘We don’t even want human rights at this stage,’ one guy told us, ‘We’d settle for animal rights. The way you treat your dogs, we’d be happy with that.’

Ireland Calais Refugee Solidarity

Bairbre Flood

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60 thoughts on “‘We’d Settle For Animal Rights’

  1. doncolleone

    what an idiot, us Irish are out walking our dogs too every evening too, so what? dismount the high horse.

        1. Clampers Outside!

          If these pieces stuck to fact grabbing rather than trying to write a piece of story telling they’d be better.
          It would avoid such silliness like the dog walking bit which does more to lose the reader than engage, imo.

          1. MoyestWithExcitement

            “If these pieces stuck to fact grabbing rather than trying to write a piece of story telling they’d be better.”

            She isn’t a staff journalist on a newspaper who’s been asked to write a report. She’s a volunteer telling her *story*. It’s stories that grab people’s attention. People connect with and relate to stories. It’s the whole point of them.

            “which does more to lose the reader than engage, imo.”

            Just because it might annoy you doesn’t mean it’s going to annoy everyone or even anyone else.

      1. MoyestWithExcitement

        I did accounting in college. I work in advertising. If I add up how much my breakfast and lunch cost today, does that make me an accountant?

      2. pardon

        Judging by the words “which he’d gotten”, I would hazard a guess and say a firm “non”. Can we not leave journalism to the qualified and talented and tell this bunch of attention seeking ” human activists” that they are not doing anything noble and that broadsheet is not a replacement for a CV . Empathising with humanity does not equate with a solid policy on saving it. Call me a cynic but the true humanitarians are neither screeching about it on social media nor posting it to broadsheet .

        1. Bobby

          ‘..tell this bunch of attention seeking ” human activists”..’

          Nice. Read one little story and, I’m assuming, you know nothing about the lives and acivities of the other few dozen (or hundred?) volunteers involved, and make that comment.

          You’re mad sound.

    1. Joe

      Tis easy to take a dig at the faceless French public instead of the real culprits. A cheep shot and innocent folk taking good care of their animal friends.

  2. karlj

    “We came back to Ireland after just four days on camp. None of us wanted to leave.”
    Really? Then, move to Calais.

    1. donkey_kong

      i was sympathetic to the piece but that bit struck me .
      fupp off on your sanctimonious high horse, author lost me at that bit

  3. Gers

    There you have it, no better off there than where they come from, can they head back home now. Thanks.

      1. Hol

        not true, they are still there and this was posted on their FB page.

        We would like to clear up any confusion that may have occurred following a news report on Monday:
        Following a recent news report, Human Relief Foundation (HRF) would like to clarify its position in regards to its work in Calais.
        Our Path of Mercy project and volunteers have been operating on the ground in Calais since 5 September.
        The need to give humanitarian support to those in the ‘jungle’ camp there was recognised early on. We have since been working hard with many others since to facilitate this much needed assistance.
        In a news interview, the opinions of a member of our team who had spent less than a day in the camp were shown. Opinions were based on the first impressions of this individual.
        HRF has however, been reviewing the need for work in Calais on a continuous basis, and there is a need in Calais for now, hence the continuous presence of our Path of Mercy project team.
        The Path Of Mercy project is aimed to help refugees and migrants in Europe. Through donations and people’s generosity, we purchased aid that was desperately needed such as food, hygiene kits, men’s shoes and clothes and distributed them efficiently in addition to facilitating the efficient distributions of aid with other individuals and charities.
        We will continue to coordinate efforts and have a presence in the camp whilst we have the capacity and will be building communal kitchens and portable shower units for camp residents.
        HRF is encouraging convoys and individuals from the UK who have been giving up their time and money to travel to the camp to provide assistance and aid to continue their work.

    1. Dόn Pídgéόní

      If you came from a place where your life was in danger, living in a sh**hole like Calais would still be better than being tortured to death don’t you think?

        1. Dόn Pídgéόní

          I hope you’re not relying on the express for those facts.

          I’d be interested to see some stats on this, I wasn’t aware there were any.

          1. Gers

            Was expecting that response, how predictable… it was on many other news outlet but HRF have now clarify their position and it appears this was the opinion of one member in particular. Regardless of this I still believe they should come back to where they came from as these are not genuine Asylum Seekers but economical migrants.

          2. Dog Gone. IT

            blah blah blah I know better you know nothing how dare you attack my liberal agenda and recidivist kneejerk SJW reactions?

          3. Vote Rep #1

            “I hope you’re not relying on the express for those facts.”

            It came from an interview on UTV news which the express has quoted. It states that in the article.

          4. Dόn Pídgéόní

            What, someone asking for the facts you are talking about with genuine interest? God forbid someone might want to have a decent chat about something!!

          5. Dόn Pídgéόní

            @ Gers – The only stats I can find state “The UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ representative in France, Philippe Leclerc, said most of the migrants in Calais were fleeing violence in countries such as Syria, Eritrea, Somalia and Afghanistan.”


  4. Michael

    The conditions may not be good, but if Britain let them in, it would encourage 10 times their number to come to Calais. Where does it stop? Sure, the Tories aren’t taking as many refugees as they should but they took the sensible option of taking them from the camps around Syria.

  5. ollie

    So what exactly is going on? Tens of thousands of people (the vast majority are men) who have travelled across Europe to get to the UK.
    That’s my summary, minus emotion

  6. mauriac

    is the writer suggesting that anyone who fancies it should be free to move to overcrowded England? If the first man feels unsafe going back to Afghanistan he is required to apply for asylum in the first safe country he gets to not choose his favourite.
    The second man has had his case reviewed and been deported . Countries or political blocks have a right to control their borders .

          1. Dόn Pídgéόní

            Population density doesn’t imply being overcrowded though and it differs by region. It wouldn’t be “overcrowded” if the government enforced rather than dropped developers being forced to include affordable housing or any housing and investment in infrastructure, oh but hey they dropped that as well, what a surprise. If I was a cynical person, you’d think they are setting the UK’s public services, in particular the NHS, don’t get me started on that, up to fail. Wonder why?

  7. MoyestWithExcitement

    “overcrowded England”


    “If the first man feels unsafe going back to Afghanistan he is required to apply for asylum in the first safe country he gets to”

    Required? It’s almost like you’ve not got a clue what you’re talking about.

    1. mauriac

      refugees have rights of course.Ireland’s slow processing is horrible for instance.they also have responsibilities :
      “The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence. (Article 31, (1))

      1. MoyestWithExcitement

        Thanks. Which bit said refugees are “required” to apply for asylum in the first safe country he gets to?

        1. Dόn Pídgéόní

          Part of some agreement made in Dublin. Made more tricky by the fact that certain countries were letting people through to others and others being a little hostile, shall we say, to encouraging them to stay and apply.

          I’m not looking at you Hungary, nope not at all.

          1. jungleman

            Moyest, the first safe country principle was set in stone by the Dublin regulation. Look it up please.

  8. John Bull

    Overcrowded England ?

    The population of Britian has gone up by 10 milliion in little over a decade. Immigration is currently running at about 600,000 per year. We have 1 million illegals. And some hippies from IRELAND think they can go to Calias and impose more chancers on us, THAT WE HAVE TO PAY FOR .

    No, take them to Ireland with you. Want more folk like this. We have millions. Would you like a million or two ? Believe me, the novelty would wear off.

    As would your smug self ritiousness.

    1. ReproBertie

      According to the article mauriac linked above “immigration into Britain is around 300,000 a year, although not all will stay permanently”.

      How do you know you have 1 million illegals? Did they mark the census “here illegally”?

      1. Dόn Pídgéόní

        There are right-wing groups, and hey, the Express(!!) in the UK that round the figures, estimated at about 420,000 and 860,000, up to a million. Because they do good maths innit.

    2. ahjayzis

      Immigration causes a net *gain* to the British economy, not a burden, as you seem to suggest. Stresses on school places and housing is a function of government policy, not the millions of newcomers working and paying taxes.

      In any case it’s irrelevant, since we’re talking about refugees, not ‘immigrants’, and Britain has only a handful of refugees.

      Your post is thus rubbish. Good day!

  9. Mr. T.

    Is she like that sexy revolutionist who was getting off on being in the West Bank last year, thinking she was Che Guevara’s war chick (while always knowing she could get out any time and back home to Daddy’s money).

  10. Chris

    Any Irish who have any problem with immigration are complete tools in my opinion.

    The Irish diaspora (Irish: Diaspóra na nGael) refers to Irish people and their descendants who live outside Ireland.

    Since 1700 between 9 and 10 million people born in Ireland have emigrated, This is more than the population of Ireland at its historical peak in the 1830s of 8.5 million. The poorest of them went to Great Britain, especially Liverpool; those who could afford it, almost 5 million, went to the United States.[1]

    After 1840, emigration from Ireland became a massive, relentless, and efficiently managed national enterprise.[2] In 1890 40% of Irish-born people were living abroad. By the 21st century, an estimated 80 million people worldwide claimed some Irish descent; which includes more than 36 million Americans who claim Irish as their primary ethnicity.

    Yes I cut that from Wikipedia.

    1. Jonotti

      Your argument could not be any worse. It would be perfectly valid for the Irish diaspora complaining about immigration but not for Irish people that have never emigrated.

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