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In Calais

At the Jules Ferry refugee centre in Calais on Saturday there were hundreds of men clamouring to get in to listen to Handel’s Messiah but the gates were closed, with 700 people already inside. I was there with Play 4 Calais, an offshoot of the Lexi social enterprise cinema in North London, spearheaded by the actress Alix Wilton Regan. The aim was to bring four days of film screenings to some of the Jungle refugee camp’s estimated 6500 inhabitants, including children who are waiting to be reunited with their parents in the UK.

London Review of Books, 24/12/2015

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Short cuts

As we stepped off the ferry onto the Aegean island of Symi in late August, our thoughts were on sunbathing and sailing. But the first thing we saw was a group of what we soon discovered were Syrians carrying small backpacks holding those few possessions they hadn’t lost during the crossing from Turkey. A week later, the number of frightened, hungry and exhausted refugees had grown substantially; when we arrived there were about fifty, now there were around two hundred. An old man with gashes on his face sat bleeding in 30° heat for ten hours waiting for a doctor. He slumped forward, seemingly drunk from dehydration. He’d hit his face against the rocks when the Greek port police fired a shot in the air. Symi is the island closest to the Turkish mainland; the same thing is happening on many other outlying islands.

London Review of Books, 09/10/2014

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