Professor launches course for Calais ‘Jungle’ camp refugees

Settlers will study course on ‘life stories’ led by University of East London academic

December 5, 2015
Fence with razor wire guarding French ferry terminal
Source: iStock
Fence with razor wire guarding French ferry terminal

A professor has launched a project aimed at bringing the experience of a British university lecture theatre to the “Jungle” refugee camp in Calais.

Refugees will study for a three-day accredited course on life stories, taught by a small team of academics in the camp this weekend (4-6 December). It will be led by Corinne Squire, professor of social sciences and co-director of the Centre for Narrative Research at the University of East London.

The students to benefit from the initiative, which includes reading, writing, art, poetry and photography, will be a group of 18- to 35-year-old men who signed up for the course when Professor Squire visited the camp last month. They include a college lecturer from Ethiopia, a pharmacist from Syria, English literature and electrical engineering graduates from Sudan and a veterinary science student from Eritrea.

Such settlers were among those most often demonised by the media, Professor Squire said.

“In fact, these men are students and professionals desperate to make something of their lives, and they have the resources to do it,” she said.

“Many of the people in the camp are highly educated and keen to continue their education. They are in a difficult position, stuck outside a small town in a place they do not want to be and [that] does not want them.”

She added that because settlements such as the “Jungle” are not recognised as official refugee camps, settlers there do not receive the educational support that is available in official camps.

“Many residents told us that they want to record and reflect on what has happened to them. They want their traumatic experiences and journeys to gain a wider hearing,” she said.

“Camp residents do not just want to survive. Like anyone else, they want to live creative and productive lives.”

The volunteer language school L’École Laïque du Chemin des Dunes, engineering graduate school L’École des Arts et Métiers ParisTech and Jungle Books Library, which is based at the camp, will also be volunteering with Professor Squire.

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