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You for­get every­thing you knew, you start learn­ing many things you did not know.
By the way, what were you before?
A jour­nal­ist?
How then did you write a news report, what was the main thing you wished to convey?

hose words are tak­en from the arti­cle titled Dünya’daki Tan­rılar çok adalet­siz!” (The Gods on Earth are so unjust!) by Arzu Yıldız, my jour­nal­ist friend, no, my refugee jour­nal­ist friend… For months, I have been liv­ing with a field and a rake in my head. The inside of my head has been lac­er­at­ed for months by a stub­born rake. This rake, attack­ing my inner field relent­less­ly, in its bur­row­ing finds noth­ing oth­er than the ques­tion “in fact, what was I before?”, attack­ing me again and again, hit­ting stronger blows each time.

The “jour­ney” I began sev­er­al months ago and that was the first part of my adven­tures as a migrant “end­ed” in France, for the time being… What did I live through on this road, what did I wit­ness, I will not speak about Because I wish this arti­cle to be about those wait­ing to begin new jour­neys, those who have not yet end­ed the first part of the adven­tures as refugees.

Since July 2021, when mine began, I did not pick up a pen­cil a sin­gle time, I was unable to do it. As if I had aban­doned my words on the roads I was trav­el­ling. The trees next to which I passed inhaled by words, the ground on which I slept did not leave a sin­gle peri­od, a sin­gle com­ma in my inner being. Since those days, all that remained were ques­tion marks I knew not what to do with.

Now, I’m on my way to Calais where, in France, is occur­ring the most intense “migrant cri­sis”, no, rather “the shame on human rights”. I don’t know if I can find the words I lost, on the tracks of anoth­er migra­tion route. I don’t know either if this mat­ters in the least, because even if, seen from anoth­er angle this may appear sec­ondary, the most impor­tant duty for a migrant is to keep on going. In order to con­tin­ue, you must wear the ques­tion “by the way, what was I before?”, the cloth­ing of your new iden­ti­ty, the shirt of the migrant that may at times strike you as your only iden­ti­ty.

Dur­ing the first week of my arrival in France, while relat­ing my jour­ney to a close friend, he said “for­get it, you are lucky, those who weren’t are dead”. Per­haps he was right, it was use­less fight­ing with the trau­mas, the ghosts. How much you suf­fered on your migra­tion road, how much you were sad­dened, dis­ap­point­ed, exhaust­ed, all this becomes insignif­i­cant, the minute you have reached the ter­mi­nal, untouched. Because the seas, the forests, the deserts you have crossed are ceme­ter­ies… Then, you even feel ashamed to relate your own sto­ry, it strikes you as inde­cent to do so. This is why I turn my atten­tion to Arzu’s sec­ond ques­tion: “How then did you write a news report, what was the main thing you wished to convey?”

I leave my own for­est to go to anoth­er one, that of Calais.

  • Calais 2022 / Ceren Karlıdağ

The fires that would have been set by migrants forced to leave the camp are still burn­ing while the demo­li­tion work is ongoing.”

The Pre­fect for Pas-de-Calais, Fabi­enne Buc­cio, announced “the mis­sion was successful”.

I was report­ed that migrants liv­ing in the hangar were a pub­lic health men­ace, dis­trib­uted pub­lic order and that some 50 fam­i­lies liv­ing in the neigh­bor­hood had com­plained about the camp.”

These sen­tences are pulled from arti­cles about Calais, pub­lished over the years. They are cold, fearsome.

The “suc­cess­ful­ly accom­plished mis­sion” dates from 2016 when the refugee camp in Calais, known as the “jun­gle” was evac­u­at­ed. “A mis­sion so suc­cess­ful” that one can’t find any con­crete mea­sures tak­en in the five years fol­low­ing, in order to improve liv­ing con­di­tions for these people?

In the last few weeks, the col­lec­tive “Calais Loge­ment Pour Tou­stes” tried to occu­py a ten-storey build­ing that has stood emp­ty for years, in order to make it avail­able to migrants. On Fri­day Feb­ru­ary 11, the police forced the evac­u­a­tion of the build­ing in an oper­a­tion assist­ed by heli­copter. Already, while the activists were inside, the police sur­round­ing the build­ing had clocked all exits to any aid that could have come from the out­side. Those inter­est­ed about what hap­pened can view the videos on Street Pol­i­tics.

Migrants Calais

Calais 2022 / Ceren Karlıdağ

So, after five years, anoth­er mis­sion was “suc­cess­ful­ly con­clud­ed”. The shel­ter­ing of migrants in anoth­er build­ing occu­pied by the col­lec­tive has been “autho­rized” tem­porar­i­ly.  On the day before I was to vis­it this build­ing where some twen­ty peo­ple were shel­tered, the may­or fo Calais, Nat­acha Bouchart, announced that Calais’ youth hos­tel was ready to greet Ukraini­ans all week, if nec­es­sary. Sudanese, Kur­dish, Ethiopi­an, Iran­ian, Syr­i­an migrants wouldn’t have mind­ed receiv­ing the same welcome…

For exam­ple, Ahmed from Roja­va, whom I met in the occu­pied house devoid of elec­tric­i­ty where the Sudanese migrants are usu­al­ly liv­ing… For the past nine years he has been drift­ing from one coun­try to anoth­er. Like many oth­ers, he dreams that his final stop will be in Eng­land. But this sto­ry of drift­ing end­ed, the day before our meet­ing, in the waters of the Channel.

Ahmed stub­born­ly describes the nine years of wan­der­ing from one coun­try to anoth­er. “I reached sol­id ground by hold­ing on to float­ing objects” in these Chan­nel waters which, to this day and accord­ing to offi­cial fig­ures, has tak­en some of 344 peo­ple who who died attempt­ed to reach Eng­land from Calais.

At first the smug­gler said que would be 30. The num­ber kept on grow­ing. In the end, they crammed 48 peo­ple aboard a small boat and we left. The boat start­ed sink­ing before reach­ing the open sea. We tried bail­ing out but it was useless…”

Will you try again?” I asked him. “Yes,” he answered. This insis­tence on “not giv­ing up no mat­ter what hap­pens”, is a com­mon one felt by all those who fol­low that road, I think. At least, it strikes me as very famil­iar. We share anoth­er “famil­iar” feel­ing, in terms of food. We pre­pare “baba ganush” 1, mix­ing the aro­mas of grilled egg­plant to an evening where we speak Kur­dish in north­ern France, kilo­me­ters away from our country…

Migrants Calais

Calais 2022 / Ceren Karlıdağ

Accord­ing to data com­piled by the BBC, at least 28 431 migrants crossed the Chan­nel aboard small boats in 2021.

Smug­glers ask approx­i­mate­ly 2 000€ for a pas­sage aboard.

But this is not the only port of entry into Great Britain. Some migrants attempt to hide in trucks head­ing for Eng­land. One Iran­ian migrant tells me he attempt­ed this twice in one week, but failed…

War gen­er­at­ed inde­scrib­able suf­fer­ing as well as inequal­i­ties that can­not be qual­i­fied. Bal­anc­ing vic­times of con­flict and war accord­ing to their belong­ing to Europe or to areas fur­ther removed is pars­ing out injus­tice Yet, among migrants, we rec­og­nize one anoth­er, whether our eyes are blue or not…

I saw chil­dren with beau­ti­ful eyes in Grande Syn­the, approx­i­mate­ly 30km from Calais. They slept under tents lined up along a rail­way. Women, men, chil­dren, there were about 50 to 60 peo­ple there. Most were from Başur (South­ern Kur­dis­tan in Irak) and from Rojhi­lat (East­ern Kur­dis­tan in Iran).

A fam­i­ly answered the ques­tion “Why did you leave Başur?” : “For free­dom”. Two broth­ers, their wives and four chil­dren in total, have been on the road for six months. And for the last month, they have been liv­ing under this tent, in this encampment.

It’s hard­er espe­cial­ly for the chil­dren, par­tic­u­lar­ly at night, it’s very cold…” says one of them. We talk about our jobs, the lives we left behind us. One of the broth­ers asks: “Were you a jour­nal­ist before?” I answer, “yes, and now I am a refugee”

The fam­i­lies from Basur and Rojhi­lat explain to me why they want to go to Great Britain:
“The Euro­pean coun­tries have reject­ed the requests of a num­ber of our acquain­tances who passed through this camp Or else, the process moves too slow­ly for us. We don’t know the rea­son for this but, based on these expe­ri­ences, we want to go to a coun­try where we could received a res­i­den­cy per­mit more quick­ly, find some work and get on with our lives.”

Eng­land is this coun­try peo­ple dream of for the time being, over here.

As for me, on my way back to Paris, I have Kon­stan­ti­nos Kavafis’ verse in my mind: “New coun­tries you will not find, you will not find oth­er seas. The town will fol­low you.”

I would so much wish that he were wrong… 

Soutenez Kedis­tan, FAITES UN DON.

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Ceren Karlıdağ
Jour­nal­iste | Gazeteci 
İstanbul’da doğ­du. Ege üniver­site­si gazete­ci­lik bölümünü bitir­di. 2014 yılın­dan bu yana gazete­ci­lik yap­mak­ta. 2021’den beri sürgünde. Née à Istan­bul, diplômée de la fac­ulté de jour­nal­isme de l’U­ni­ver­sité d’Egée. Elle exerce le jour­nal­isme depuis 2014. En exil depuis 2021. Born in Istan­bul, grad­u­ate of the fac­ul­ty of jour­nal­isme at Uni­ver­si­ty fo the Aegean. She has prac­ticed jour­nal­ism since 2014. In exile since 2021.