THE leader of a volunteer group supporting the 6000 inhabitants of the migrant camp in Calais termed "the Jungle" has described the situation as "unco-ordinated" and "extremely hard to manage".
The founder of Care4Calais, Clare Moseley, who is a former accountant, said on Tuesday that the absence of the United Nations and the main aid agencies in the camp (owing to its unofficial status, and its location) had resulted in a lack of leadership.
"There is nobody in charge, which makes our job very difficult as most people haven’t had any formal training," she said.
Ms Moseley set up Care4Calais (which is awaiting charity registration) four months ago, to co-ordinate the distribution of donations from the UK and Germany to refugees in the camp. Church groups, volunteers, and small charities are helping the team to hand out clothes, bedding, tents, camping equipment, and limited medical supplies and food, which are held in a warehouse two kilometres from the camp.
"We have established protocols for how to distribute aid fairly, and to interact with refugees in different areas, which is a better experience for everyone," she said. "We used to have a big problem when people just turned up to hand out donations."
In December, Care4Calais was joined by volunteers from the homelessness charity Emmaus in St Albans, who were on their ninth visit to the camp. In their latest report, a member of the team, Nicola Marven, wrote that, although conditions in the camp were still poor, the mood had lifted. "There seemed to be a much larger presence of non-camp residents . . . groups of artists, musicians, bakers . . . all doing their best to help spread some festive cheer," she wrote.
The main path, she wrote, was "almost like a high street. . . Gone are the simple tents, and instead skeletons of wood have sprung up, with staples and duct tape holding sheets of thick plastic between them as makeshift walls, some even complete with windows. "
The increasing permanency of the camp, however, is a cause for concern, Ms Moseley said. "I am hoping and praying that there is no ‘long term’ — what we need is a solution," she said. "Europe must come together and agree sensible quotas for accepting refugees."
When food or clothes shortages hit, donations and hands to help are essential, she said. Last week the Church of the Latter Day Saints worked with Care4Calais to pack hundreds of fresh food parcels. Churches such as St An-selm’s, Belmont, in the diocese of London, are collecting toothpaste, soap, wipes, socks, jumpers, and winter coats to donate to the camp. The Vicar of St Anselm’s, the Revd Christine Robinson, delivered the goods herself last month.
On Tuesday, charities and aid agencies — including Oxfam, CAFOD, Christian Aid, and Amnesty International — called on the Prime Minister to do more for refugees in 2016. In a joint open letter to Mr Cameron, the heads of more than 40 agencies said that the Government’s response to the crisis last year had been "clearly inadequate . . . too slow, too low, and too narrow".
The letter also urged the UK to provide safe and legal routes for refugees into Europe, after 3770 people died attempting to cross the Mediterranean last year.