Photo: the toilets in the “5 Star” Jungle
Everything about this place works together to strip people of their humanity.
200+ human beings live in this abandoned warehouse. They affectionately call it the “5 Star”. It’s anything but that. The smell of urine is strong upon entry. It’s a health disaster waiting to happen.
Paul Sydnor (IAFR) and the team are praying that portable toilets will be provided for these people ASAP. It’s clearly in everyone’s best interest.
We recognize that we might need to be the ones to provide the sanitation. We have no idea how. Still we pray, “Lord Jesus, please provide these people with sanitation- and if possible, please let us participate in your answer to this prayer.”
So be it.
Photo: Paul Sydnor (IAFR) talking with a refugee in the abandoned warehouse
This is one of many rooms in an abandoned warehouse that has become a makeshift refuge for 200-300 refugees and asylum seekers here in northern France. Conditions are terrible. Overcrowding and lack of sanitation make this a place in which sickness is inevitable. It is temporary home to mostly men, but some women as well. Nights are said to be somewhat frightening. But these people have nowhere else to go.
During our brief 1-2 hour visit, we met people from Gambia, Cameroon, Mali, Albania and Afghanistan. I have no idea what other nationalities are represented in the space.
A group of Afghan men invited us to sit with them beside their tents in the building. One was disappeared when we accepted their invitation. He returned moments later with a bowl filled with fresh fruit to share with us.
Photo: with two of the Afghan refugees by their tents
They spoke openly of their difficult journeys from Central Asia to Europe. One of the men shared with me has he has been denied asylum repeatedly by different countries – and how he is into his 4th appeal here in France. He’s been searching for refuge for 24 years now – including 10 years in Iran.
When I told them that I would pray for them – that God would lead them to a place that they could call home. Their eyes brightened. “That is What we need! Thank you!”
Please pray with us that God would call people to join with our team in Lille, France, full-time to help these friends survive and recover from forced displacement together with the church.
I’m writing an article on How God is at work among forcibly displaced people for the New Urban World Journal of the Urban Shalom Society. I’m connected with them and their work through my Ambassador role with World Evangelical Alliance (WEA).
While I find writing hard work, I also find it to be a helpful discipline as it forces me to put words on issues and convictions.
My hope is that this article might be used to create new space in the hearts and minds of people for refugees. I believe that this is among the most important challenges of this decade, during which many societies have begun to perceive refugees as a threat to their well-being rather than vulnerable people in need of safety.
I suspect that writing will become an increasingly important part of my ministry in coming years.
FACT: Less than 1% of the world’s 25.4 million refugees are resettled in a given year (i.e. a Syrian refugee in Jordan resettled to the US or a Sudanese refugee in Kenya resettled to Canada).
But contrary to what many people assume, not all refugees want to be resettled to another country (including the US). Most hope to one day be able to return home.
The UN Refugee Agency has identified 1.2 million of the 25.4 million refugees in serious need of resettlement – that’s just 6% of the total refugee population.
ANOTHER FACT: Opportunities for resettlement dropped a massive 54% between 2016 and 2017. Over 163,000 refugees were resettled in 2016. Just over 75,000 were resettled in 2017.
These are people who will never be able to return home or integrate into their country of temporary refuge and who are understood to be among the most vulnerable refugees. They are the most vulnerable people in the world.
But as the number of forcibly displaced people continues to grow, peaceful nations are offering less help. The burden to care for these people falls on the world’s developing nations.