‘The Jungle, Calais, Christmas Day – These two men are Bedouin Arabs from Kuwait – they described themselves as ‘no paper’. This basically means that in the country of their birth they are born with no documentation whatsoever, which means they have no right to healthcare, education or welfare of any kind.
The guy on the right earned a living in Kuwait by selling fruit ‘illegally’, he spent most of his days being moved-on by the police. The other man was in the same situation, he washed car windows at the side of the road. They want to get to the UK to find work, legally.
If the country you were born in refuses to recognise your existence, then is it so wrong to go and find it elsewhere…?’
I posted the above photograph and accompanying text on my Facebook photography page after spending the day with a group Kuwaiti Bedouin Arabs on Christmas Day. I’d been photographing the men as part of a project based in the migrant/refugee camp in Calais, France. The post sparked quite a few responses, most of which were so xenophobic and offensive I had to delete them. A lot of people were asking why these people have to come to the UK and why can’t they stay in France?
I wanted to respond to the comments immediately, indignantly… however, I haven’t spent enough time in Calais to actually fathom what’s really going-on there – the place is shrouded so densely by rumour and lies that I think I’d need to be there for weeks to cut through it, which is something I intend to do. So, for this initial article I’m not going to attempt to delve into the intricate political, religious and social issues intertwining the squalid patch of land, just off the A216, that is ‘The Jungle’.
For now, and until manage to go through all the photographic and visual notes I made over Christmas, all I’ll say is this – I don’t think anyone should necessarily be grateful of their birthplace… you can’t be grateful, or ungrateful, for something you didn’t ask for. However, I do feel appreciative that I live in a country from where I can travel to just about anywhere I like in the world, not just to visit, but to work too – So, why is it any different for six Kuwaiti Bedouin Arabs, or anybody else living in limbo along the Northwestern French coast?
All images made using iPhone 6s and Fuji Instax 300 instant camera.