SEVEN volunteers from the North-East travelled to Calais to work with refugees.

Volunteers including Bywell County Councillor Holly Waddell and her partner Connor Pears and Horsley resident Tony Pierre worked in camps in Calais and Dunkirk in a scheme organised by Care4Calais. 

The trip was planned to take place in 2020 in memory of Cllr Bernard Piddock, who formerly represented the Holywell ward on Northumberland County Council.

Volunteering days included direct work with refugees in camps and distributing resources and services to those in need.

Refugees reported the French police had punctured their water tank that morning, leaving them with no fresh water in 40-degree heat. 

Cllr Waddell said “This has been a hugely eye-opening week.

"In Dunkirk, I had a conversation with a man who had left Iran due to fear of being killed for being gay. He had fled illegally after his family stole his passport and threatened to shoot him.

"He had already witnessed friends murdered by their families for the same reason, their bodies dumped in the sea.

"He told me he was hoping to cross the channel in the coming days and make a life in England where he knew people were more accepting.

"He explained he was going to pay to cross in a small boat, and knew it was dangerous but he said he would rather die in the channel than be hung or murdered in Iran. Can you imagine being faced with this kind of a decision?

"He also described the situation in the camp he was sleeping in, and it was beyond despairing, he was being forced to have sex at gunpoint. This is the reality of life for refugees and this is only one story of the 100s here.

"When you see refugees on the news, I would encourage you to think about why they have made long hard journeys to come to our country. We are so lucky to have some of the small comforts in life.”