Refugees face numerous challenges upon arriving in Calais, a town in Northern France, as they attempt to cross into the U.K. According to the refugee charity, Care4Calais, most refugees are fleeing war-torn and impoverished countries like Afghanistan, Syria and South Sudan. However, the U.K. offers limited legal options for refugees to seek asylum. In response to this situation, an organization called Refugee Info Bus strives to enhance refugees’ access to technology and information in Calais, empowering them with knowledge about their rights and connecting them to family and local support organizations.
Where is Calais?
Calais, often referred to as the jungle, serves as a point of entry for migrants attempting to reach the U.K. It is located in Northern France, where hostile weather conditions and pervasive anti-immigrant sentiments contribute to challenging living conditions for the refugees. Although the French government demolished the central camp in Calais, smaller encampments persist in the region. Human Rights Watch reports that migrants frequently face eviction, harassment and confiscation of their belongings. Additionally, humanitarian assistance is constrained and limited, making it difficult for individuals to access basic necessities such as food, water and suitable shelter. In this trying environment, refugees urgently need support and guidance, and organizations like Refugee Info Bus play a crucial role in improving their access to technology and relevant information.
The conditions of the camps in Calais are rough, but many refugees struggle to leave the area safely. In 2021, 2,000 people lived in Calais according to the Human Rights Watch data. Refugees hoping to leave Calais struggle with the asylum process in the U.K.
Why is it Challenging for Migrants to Stay in the UK Legally?
The Nationality and Borders Act focuses on the use of unsafe routes to enter the U.K. According to the Refugee Council, the U.K. does not provide safer routes for refugees to receive asylum, so refugees often face penalties. Refugees often travel risky routes because they are fleeing violence, persecution and unsafe living conditions. Refugees often have no choice but to travel illegally without identity documents. Persecuted individuals are forced to leave their home country with nothing.
The U.K. issues visas to determine the legality of an individual’s stay in the country, but these visas remain inaccessible to refugees fleeing perilous circumstances and poverty. The lack of visas makes it exceedingly challenging for refugees to secure asylum. In this difficult landscape, Refugee Info Bus plays a critical role in providing support to these vulnerable migrants.
What Does Refugee Info Bus Do?
Refugee Info Bus originated in 2016 to help refugees in Calais connect with resources to help them receive asylum. Through its mobile bus, the organization provides Wifi, phone charging, phone repair, batteries and mobile phones.
According to the Refugee Info Bus website, “we facilitated over 10,000 Wi-Fi logins and delivered more than 1,000 workshops to 3,000+ individuals on the U.K. and French asylum systems as well as ‘’know your rights’’ workshops, following and during evictions.” The organization focuses on access to technology and information for refugees seeking asylum.
Refugee Info Bus, established in 2016, serves as a lifeline for refugees in Calais, connecting them with essential resources to aid their asylum process. The organization operates a mobile bus equipped with Wi-Fi, phone charging, repair services, batteries and mobile phones. Its efforts have facilitated more than 10,000 Wi-Fi logins and delivered more than 1,000 workshops to more than 3,000 individuals in the U.K. and French asylum systems, along with “know your rights” workshops, especially during evictions.
Additionally, the organization expanded its services to Greece in 2017, offering audio and video materials in multiple languages to help refugees navigate the intricate asylum process. These services have also extended to online platforms. “From 2018-2019, we created 40 videos that have been viewed 750k times in total, each video receives on average around 20 private messages or requests for further info or assistance.”
Refugees rely on the mobile bus to connect with their families and acquire knowledge about the asylum process. They access the internet, which is vital for staying connected to external support networks. Given the intricate nature of the asylum process and the legalities involved, being well-informed about their rights is crucial for refugees. The commendable work of Refugee Info Bus significantly improves access to technology and vital information for refugees residing in temporary and precarious circumstances.
– Ellie Bruce