Is this really Europe? Some voices from the Calais ‘Jungle’

One of the wonderful (and worrying) things about working in environmental health is (in the words of one of the Johannesburg EHPs in my PhD) ‘you get to see the world as it is, behind the closed doors…’

Lunch with my colleague Surindar last week was largely taken up with her recollections ‘behind the barbed wire fence’ during a field trip to the ‘New Jungle’ of Calais. She is working with colleagues from  the University of  Birmingham on an ESRC funded project to document environmental health conditions within the camp and their initial findings are summarised in the following article published last night in ‘The Conversation’ via:

I think this is exactly the research that EH professionals like us should be engaged in and I can’t wait to receive Surindar’s next update as their data analysis continues.

Some friends recently raised the problems of Calais in conversation but spoke only of its impact on their travel and holiday plans and their fear of being attacked by ‘migrants with crowbars’. When I raised Surindar’s work, recalled some of the conditions she had seen and one of the stories she had been told, I succeeded only in changing the conversation immediately to the ‘safer world’ of summer holiday plans.

This response reminded me why I rarely talk about my own similar past environmental health experiences but also why we EHPs, alongside journalists, fellow health professionals etc, should be doing much more to give voice to the most vulnerable in our societies. All credit therefore to Surindar, Thom and Arshad for doing so.

With best wishes,



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