Student recalls her summer in Calais migrant 'Jungle’


Student Joanna May Sutton-Klein spent 10 days volunteering in the migrant camp in Calais known as "the Jungle".

Ms Sutton-Klein, 21, who is president of her Sheffield University JSoc, gave up her summer holiday to teach in a makeshift school.

She said: "I saw what was happening on the news and I couldn't escape the idea that this was us, 80 years ago. I felt I had a duty as a Jewish person."

She said: "The camps are awful, they are places no people should be living in in 2015. They are forced together in these horrible conditions, they arrived with nothing but the clothes they are wearing and maybe a bag. Their lives are so desperate and yet the sense of community in the camps is inspiring."

The medical student helped with French lessons. "I particularly wanted to help in the school and I managed to track down a Facebook group who was organising volunteers."

She said: "There are not that many children in the Jungle, but no one checks if you're safe to work with the ones who are there. I had a CRB check myself but it was taken on trust that the volunteers were there in good faith."

Many of her pupils were young men in their late teens. "They have had to grow up so fast. They are separated from their families and have mixed levels of English."

Ms Sutton-Klein stayed in a nearby youth hostel, but said "I had a tent with me so, if I needed to, I could have stayed in the camp."

She was surprised by the number of religious volunteers in the camp. "I was the only Jewish one there, as far I could see. A lot of the people volunteering were evangelical Christians and spent a lot of time trying to convert the refugees.

"It made me quite angry - how could they be using people who are that vulnerable and pressuring them into believing something different.

"Faith plays a big part of the refugees' lives in the camps - they have had to leave horrible circumstances and their faith might have been what got them through.

"I'd hate to think if that had happened to the Jews when they came to Britain."

She made it clear that, from what she had seen, none of the charities aiding the migrants were involved in any conversion attempts.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive