The Galloo refugee squat, Calais

One of the disadvantages of being a technical klutz is that you can lose things. When I switched from Apple's Aperture to Lightroom I managed to lose a great many images. Many of them were rejects of course, but I was horrified when I realised I had misplaced the pictures of the Galloo squat in Calais. I spent four days in the port city and at least two of them at the squat, a former aluminium reclamation depot. It was home to more than 300 refugees and it was on borrowed time. Just weeks after I visited the site was raided by French police in riot gear and all the occupants were evicted. The depot is now guarded by security staff. Galloo was an extraordinary place. British activists were running the place - they would disavow that description I suspect - providing refugees with advice on getting to the UK as well as more mundane things like fixing punctures on bikes and handing out medicine. The giant warehouses were full of tents that served as makeshift homes and the little offices had been turned into sleeping quarters. The prevailing air was one of boredom and frustration. The refugees felt trapped - they were in a holding pattern and many local residents were becoming more hostile. Not all of them of course. One lady who lived near the squat let the refugees use her shower and cooked them the occasional meal, acts of generosity I still find extraordinary.


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