Last week I made another emotional journey with Just Shelter to Northern France. Since then I have read several articles which relate to the plight of people whose lives have been so badly affected by war and/or climate changes that they feel compelled to flee. It is good that journalists are once again focusing on the situation, but the news is far from positive. Newly-elected Italian leaders have responded to the situation by closing its ports, but we are told by The Guardian, “Mayors across the south of Italy have pledged to defy a move by the new Italian government – an alliance of the far right and populists – to prevent a rescue boat with 629 people on board from docking in the Sicilian capital.” (Wintour, Tondo, Kirchgaessner, 2018).
A hundred people drowned in the Mediterranean just last week, according to Global Citizens. The article reporting these deaths goes on to tell us more than 3000 people have died every year for the last four. (McCarthy, 2018)
On Friday volunteers from Just Shelter were asked to help serve food alongside a French charity, Emmaus (set up by a priest called Abbé Pierre in 1949 because he was so horrified by the lack of compassion in society towards people who require help). When we were greeted by the centre director she explained how the organisation aims to demonstrate that is possible for people from all over the world to live and work together peacefully.
The area which Just Shelter had been visiting for several months has been cleared (as discussed previously) and people have been moved to a different site, not far away but very far from ideal. You can read more about the day on Just Shelter’s Facebook page, including a report about how the police stopped Emmaus from driving its van into the camp, so that all the food along with trestle tables and other paraphernalia had to be carried much further.
Here are a series of images from Friday; but before I go I will mention one final article which asks us to consider our own culpability in all of this. Kenan Malik, author of The Quest for a Moral Compass, 2014 writes, “This is the reality of Fortress Europe: politicians and officials so blinded by their obsession with illegal immigration that they have lost the ability to recognise their most basic of obligations to others. The fear of allowing illegal immigrants into Europe seems to weigh heavier than the guilt of allowing fellow human beings (who just happen to be African [or anyone else outside the narrow confines of the West]) to die. So when the far-right identitarian movement harass MSF and other NGO rescue boats or when they attack migrant camps, we ought to remember that they are not the first to do so. They are following European officialdom.” (2018)
Views my own, Images (c)SJField 2018
2 thoughts on “South London Photographer: Working with Just Shelter”
The story will continue to be shittier and shittier, the situations they find themselves are always going to be at the mercy of the short terms of the vanity of politics and politicians. Nice documentary work though, but it must feel like pissing in the wind.
Well, yes it does a bit. But I plan to keep going anyway – it’s a long-term thing which needs to be recorded even when the press isn’t there, even though people may be bored by it, or would rather not think about it at all. One day (one hopes) society will look back in horror and shame. Yesterday someone posted a map with dots on representing all the people who had drowned in the sea crossings in the last 25 years. The bile and vitriol beneath the post is utterly grotesque. It’s terrifying to think people are so driven by fear. But as you say, it will only get worse as resources become less and less available. Edward O Wilson writes extremely well about this. What is also astounding though is the lack of awareness regarding language used. Someone who I thought sensible and decent recently shared a racist post which I was really shocked about … there is just so much for society to learn.