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Tags and Numbers

“Do you remember in history when we would tag and number people?” asked Brother Johannes.

Yellow band, number 67. When a refugee and migrant register, they receive a different color bracelet and on it is written a number. That is all.

Last Wednesday the French government closed registration in the afternoon. They began to burn the Calais Jungle. Minors that did not get a chance to register, had nowhere to sleep. Only registered youth can sleep in the container camp.

Volunteers slept in a protection circle around the minors who had not had a chance to register. That night the group slept in the compound with the containers.

Thursday morning, while the rest of the Jungle was burning, the police were arresting minors without registration bracelets and taking them in their vehicles. We do not know where they were taken or why.

Thursday night, volunteers who were able to be with the youth again, slept as a protection shield around them. This is not and has not been easy and/or safe for either party.

We have been fortunate to send the theatre group (a group of young men refugees) to Croisille, France. They were met with cheers and welcome from brave and gentle volunteers at a retirement home, where they were to stay. That night, people at the home sent out texts saying that there was a protest outside their windows, raging, that the refugees were not welcome.

It is our personal responsibility as humans to share these moments of cruelty and confusion. It is when people cannot fathom an atrocity taking place that the perpetrators get away with destroying lives.

The French and U.K. governments do not seem to be willing to take equal responsibility for this crisis. There were big-name organizations like UNHCR that were very, very unofficial members in trying to alleviate this crisis, but they left after witnessing how the two governments treated the minors.

The emotional and physical upheaval and abuse that has gone on in the lives of these refugees and migrants seems to be unending. Where are the laws of compassion and human dignity?