Project Description

Help for refugees
in the north of France

In the port city of Calais and the surrounding area, thousands of refugees persevere in tents and under tarpaulins in all weathers. They hope for a safe life in the UK because they no longer see a future in their countries of origin, but entry is not legally possible. In this region on the French side of the English Channel, about 1,500 refugees are currently living on the streets, often without access to running water or electricity. They hope to make it to the UK, through the Eurotunnel or across the Channel.

In 2016, the so-called “Jungle” was cleared, a refugee camp with about 8,000 people near the ferry port of Calais. Since then, the government has been trying to prevent another large settlement from being built: The many small camps are cleared by the police every 48 hours, tents, sleeping bags and other items are confiscated, and in some cases destroyed. This regularly leads to arrests and conflicts between refugees and the police. Aid organizations criticize that these actions would only further discriminate against the already suffering people and deliberately create undignified living conditions.

These practices, which violate human rights, contribute to a policy of deterrence with which the authorities try to prevent anything that they believe attracts migrants to northern France or encourages the establishment of camps. However, this does not take into account that people come here to flee to the UK. “People don’t travel to northern France because they’ve heard they can camp well in the woods or sleep under a bridge. They don’t come because groups give them a little food and water. They come because that’s where the border is,” said Charlotte Kwantes, national coordinator of Utopia 56.

In November 2022, an aid team from the Caravan of Humanity traveled to Calais in northern France to help people in need. Especially the onset of winter causes difficulties for the refugees, as they have no safe roof over their heads, too little clothing and food.

The collected donations in kind and money were distributed by our relief team in cooperation with the partner organization “Collective Aid” on site or used for urgent purchases (food, medicine). You can find detailed information on how the donations were used under our donation transparency (under the tab “Calais”).

Summary after our return from Calais:

Our last relief mission in Calais had an enormous emotional range to offer: On the one hand, we worked with a very professional and determined NGO on the ground, where – despite all the focus on supporting the people in need – there was always fun in the work and in being together.

On the other hand, we distributed much-needed warm clothing just as the harsh winter hit northern France. And while thick snowflakes danced from the sky, we ran frantically from tent to tent and from tarp to tarp to be able to hand out a warm blanket or jacket to as many freezing people as possible. After this mission we could return to our warm quarters. But the images in our heads, the increasing cold that night and the knowledge that thousands of refugees outside had to survive the night did not let us sleep well…

Nevertheless, it is always this strong feeling of not wanting to and not being able to accept this terrible inhumanity that drives us. And this feeling also gives us the strength to push the sad images into the background and to see what we can achieve together.

Donations in kind
Donate money
Donate Now

“We are trying to provide shelter and clothing to thousands of refugees from the approaching cold. At the same time, we want to give them warmth of heart and thus return a little of their human dignity.”


Photos from Calais/France

Copyright Photos: Pascal Violo & Abdul Saboor

Video message