Conversations From Calais

Conversations From Calais

Hi, I’m Mathilda. In September 2018, I went to Calais to volunteer. I spent 10 days unpacking bags of donations and sorting clothes and shoes in a volunteer warehouse and then distributing them in several camps around Calais and Grande-Synthe. 

Returning to the UK, I started sharing conversations between volunteers and refugees and migrants in northern France and Conversations From Calais was founded with the aim to humanise displaced people in northern France, whose voices are so often silenced or ignored. 

This growing collection of conversations tries to capture the diversity of people and experiences in Calais. Many of these conversations can be difficult and heartbreaking, as they showcase the tragic refugee story that lots of us are familiar with; but some are hopeful and funny. 

They remind us that even in the most difficult of situations, like living in Calais, there are still moments of laughter, beauty and kindness.

We have now shared more than 300 conversations volunteers like me have submitted.  These posters have been pasted up on walls in 60 cities in 5 continents!

And these conversations from Calais can serve as their own powerful conversation starters. You can use these posters to help explain to family and colleagues, why people want to come to the UK, why people don’t stay in France, or why people leave their home in the first place. 

The conversations are a reminder that after all we’re all just people who want the same things - to be safe and to be loved. They can remind us that the only reason we are not in this situation is luck. If everyone who reads a Conversation from Calais has their own conversation imagine how powerful this could be!

Why are we sharing these conversations now? 

Right now, even against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, our Government is pushing ahead and trying to pass a bill that is totally anti refugees - and it’s about to go through its final stages of Parliament. 

The invasion of Ukraine has once again highlighted how when home is no longer safe, people don’t have the option of applying for a visa – they have to pack a bag and get to safety via any means they can. But this bill is designed to criminalise people simply for trying to find a safe place to call home. 

Under this bill, people seeking safety from Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria and other countries who travel via irregular routes to reach the UK will be punished, not protected. Instead of being given much needed sanctuary, people will face being sent to an offshore detention centre or being deported to a country where their lives might be in danger. 

Whilst many people have sought safety in other countries, the first few Ukrainian families have made it to Calais with the hope of finding sanctuary, or reuniting with loved ones, in the UK, only to be turned away at the border. These people need protection, but we must remember that people from other countries also stuck in Calais are equally in need of sanctuary. All refugees must always be treated with compassion, dignity and fairness regardless of their home country or skin colour.

People trying to make their way to the UK via northern France are so often demonised in the media and used as scapegoats by this Government to detract from their own failings. But, Conversations From Calais, serve as a powerful reminder that wherever people happen to be from, we are all just… people. People like you and me, with hopes, dreams and fears.

Take Action Now!

The people behind these conversations from Calais, are also people who will be punished and criminalised under the cruel and inhumane Nationality and Borders Bill.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Our leaders can choose to treat people with kindness and compassion and as we’d wish to be treated if we were in the same circumstances.

As this bill heads back to the House of Commons, will you join us in taking action by telling our elected leaders to vote with compassion. 

Email your MP now! 


To find out more about Conversations from Calais visit: