Refugee Lawyer Reflects on French Refugee Camp

Unsafe Conditions in French Refugee Camp Reaffirm Need for More Open Immigration in Canada

The global refugee crisis continues to evolve every day, with no apparent end or relief in sight for the millions of displaced citizens of Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Eritrea, and other nations gripped by conflict. Even for those who have found a relatively safe refuge abroad, the situation looks grim, such as for those in the French refugee camp known as the Jungle. Refugees living in this camp are facing conditions that would make even the sternest refugee lawyer, despite regularly hearing many stories of deplorable conditions, shudder. This makes the case for allowing more refugees the opportunity for immigration into Canada stronger than ever.

According to a damning article published in Great Britain’s The Guardian, a joint study by the University of Birmingham and the international humanitarian non-profit group Doctors of the World found a laundry list of conditions that fall far below internationally agreed-upon standards.

One of the chief findings about the Jungle, which is located in Calais on the northern shore of France, is that the drinking water shows extreme signs of fecal contamination, particularly unsafe levels of E. coli and Coliform. Between the presence of these bacteria in the drinking water, a lack of washing facilities, and improperly stored food, a number of symptoms and illnesses are becoming widespread, ranging from fevers and cramps to vomiting and diarrhea. With abundant rats and mice in the mix, as well as only one toilet facility per every 75 people, the risk for disease is high.

Of course, the conditions of the Jungle do not paint a complete picture of the trials being faced by displaced people around the world, but rather just the most extreme end of a spectrum of conditions. Between government, refugee lawyers, and ordinary citizens, certain countries have made impressive and inspiring efforts to provide aid—Lebanon has taken in over a million refugees from Syria, equivalent to a quarter of its present population, and hundreds of German citizens are offering up their homes to asylum seekers. Compared to the Jungle, Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s small figures for refugee acceptance do not seem as such a bad thing. But we can and should strive to do more for the world at large.

This will, without a doubt, be a huge factor for many when they head out to the polls later this month to elect Canada’s new Prime Minister—whether you’re a refugee lawyer or just a concerned citizen. And it should be. Canada’s humanitarian and compassionate efforts can improve. We can erase barriers to immigration in Canada that make it difficult for asylum seekers to find refuge here.