Around 100 Eritrean people living in Calais migrant camps came together to celebrate Christmas despite the worsening conditions they face.
They were helped by a group of volunteers who swapped Christmas at home for Christmas at the makeshift camps in northern France.
Thousands of people have been living in and around Calais often without access to adequate healthcare, shelter and food. The pandemic has worsened the conditions of migrant camps with social distancing seldom possible, leaving people with a high risk of contracting the virus.
Even under these tough circumstances, those residing in the camps made an effort to enjoy the festive season.
Among them is 19-year-old Aaron, who said: ‘Christmas is a very important celebration for me.
‘In Calais, the celebrations will not be the same. We will not be able to share food or celebrate with fireworks as we usually do.
‘I hope to share a meal with my friends here but it will not be the same without being able to give gifts and I may not be able to speak to my family which will be hard.’
‘Back home in Eritrea we would join together with my family to celebrate. We stayed up until midnight and have drinks with our family, we usually let off fireworks to mark Christmas Day.
‘We share gifts with each other and sit down for traditional Eritrean food, including my favourite injeera.’
Eritrea is a majority Christmas nation that has suffered brutal repression in recent years, with many escaping due to political persecution and the threat of indefinite military service.
A team of 25 volunteers helped make the day special by delivering aid and giving out chocolate bars, pens, playing cards and notepads as gifts.
Imogen Hardman, operations co-ordinator for refugee charity Care4Calais, spent her first ever Christmas in the camp.
She said: ‘For me, Christmas has always been about celebrating with your family and community, and I’ve grown so close to the refugees and volunteers in Calais, they will be a wonderful community to spend Christmas with.
‘Even though lots of the refugees in Calais don’t celebrate Christmas, it’s still so important they get food, warmth and kindness at Christmas time, as at any other time of the year.’
The charity’s founder, Clare Moseley, said: ‘2020 has been an awful year for refugees all over the world.
‘They have the least resources to fall back on when a pandemic hits.
‘They are so vulnerable, but our political leaders still refuse to treat them with basic human dignity.’
This year record numbers of people risked the dangerous trip across the English Channel in everything from dinghies to kayaks.
Despite the Home Office vowing to make the route ‘unviable’ more than 8,350 people have entered the UK on small boats this year.
More than 3,200 migrants have died making treacherous journeys across the world in 2020, with most of them drowning, according to Aljazeera’s review of how the pandemic has affected refugees.
‘Every donation, every trip to France to volunteer, every aid delivery to refugees in UK hotels, makes an extraordinary difference to people who have nothing,’ said Ms Hardman.
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