Sir, – The media has been awash with images of the “Jungle” refugee camp in Calais, which is home to some 5,000 people, many of whom are being further displaced in a violent manner by the heavy-handed tactics of the French riot police.
I have recently returned from Calais after spending a week working with Irish colleagues in attempting to alleviate the suffering of these people. I used my nursing skills to assist those who were suffering respiratory infections, fractures, bruises and lacerations.
One man will remain forever in my memory, though, and my short account of our encounter may help readers to understand again the realities of individual people that too often are lost in the crowd.
He asked to see him by myself. As he struggled to take off his T-shirt, I noticed that it was blood-stained in a number of places. Once it was removed, I could only look in shock as he revealed eight circular wounds in two vertical rows of four. Each wound was about two centimetres in diameter and, it emerged, had been made by a hot poker. He had been tortured by the Taliban in Afghanistan one month before.
Dressing his wounds was easy. It was while sitting with him afterwards in a small caravan that I saw the terror in his eyes. Fear for his life and for that of his family, left behind. All I could do was hug him as we cried together – two human beings grieving for the loss of humanity, and shedding tears for the reality of one man who has suffered the evil of what humans can do to each other.
In touching his wounds, I felt that I had touched that evil and it has left me despairing, particularly as he, and many others like him, continue to experience exclusion, derision and inhumane treatment in a European Union that was founded on values so very different to those which drive it today. – Yours, etc,
Dr FINTAN SHEERIN,
School of Nursing
Trinity College Dublin,