Oxford for Dunkirk

13th October 2016

News, Student news, Alumni news

Two Wadham students are spearheading Oxford for Dunkirk, a group encouraging support for refugees at La Linière Camp in Grande-Synthe, Dunkirk.

  • Emma Davies and Lucy Halton

    Emma Davies and Lucy Halton

Having spent the summer working in the camp’s Adult Learning Centre,  Emma Davies (French and German, 2013) and Lucy Halton (Classics and French, 2012) became aware of the camp’s need for support, in terms of volunteers and donations, in order to keep it running through the winter.

La Linière was the first official refugee camp in France, established by the Mayor of Grande-Synthe in association with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in March 2016 in response to the number of small, squalid camps which had appeared in the region.

The camp provides housing in the form of small wooden ‘shelters’, sanitary facilities (shower and toilet blocks), fresh water, a laundry, community kitchens and electricity points. The camp population is around 800 people, the majority of whom are Kurdish from Iraq and Iran who have suffered greatly under consecutive regimes, and now Daesh. The main languages spoken on the camp are Sorani Kurdish, Farsi, and Pashto, while volunteers mostly speak a mixture of English and French. Several projects and charities work on the camp maintaining its humanitarian and human side.

“Our work involved teaching English and French to groups of between 7 and 25, aged from 15-50. There would be a huge range of abilities in each class and although we would plan lessons we had to go with the flow. Men are taught separately from women but all are desperate to learn and have a huge respect for the teachers - some of the ten year olds could already speak ten languages from all the countries they have lived in since fleeing their homes,” said Emma. “The classroom was full of laughter and positivity, a kind of oasis in the camp where the atmosphere is tense and uncertain.”

“Some of these people have PHDs and are highly educated; others are taxi drivers, shop keepers and mosaic workers. Many of them have left their families and are pressurised and vulnerable, feeling guilty that their parents have given them all their money to find a new and better life in the UK,” added Lucy.

“The stories that you hear in the camp make the sea or land crossing that the refugees undertook to get here seem insignificant. People are so desperate to get to the UK they hide in refrigerated vehicles and freeze to death, teenagers jump into lorries and under trains. But compared to what they left behind this is ‘the easy’ bit,” Lucy added.

Lucy and Emma are organising a series of events to help raise funds for La Linière Women’s Centre, Children’s Centre, Learning Centre, the Kesha Niya kitchen and free shops.

Contact them at oxfordfordunkirk@gmail.com

  • The camp at La Linière