Helping Unaccompanied Refugee Youth
More Jungle Stories: Along the Highway
Posted by Kaylee K on Wednesday, October 19, 2016
As we travel across northern France we spot jungles. Not what you imagine seeing in Europe. But these certainly aren’t the rainforests your mind may conjure up upon hearing the term either. For asylum seekers, the make-shift camps they are often relegated to on the edges of farms along the tree lines are more like jungles than homes. Urban settings would certainly provide access to more resources and potential community. But it would also mean that the asylum seekers are visible, which is not something governments generally want. However, the refugee crisis has become too big to hide. And jungles, certainly, are not the long-term solution.
The asylum seekers we visited in one spot along the highway (photo above) were all from Afghanistan. Several among them were under 18 and traveling without parents or guardians. None of those we spoke with want to stay in France. The UK seems to be the destination of choice for many; particularly those who have family or community already there. The jungle is a temporary stop as they figure out how to get to the UK, but more and more we hear from them that this is very difficult, perhaps not possible. So what then?
While this temporary encampment has been established by asylum seekers, we did see that they are getting help from community groups, which are often grass roots efforts that are organized into associations; potentially with the mayor's approval. They provide wooden sheds as shelters for the refugees, and food and fresh water is delivered regularly. Wood is provided for their cooking fires and a doctor visits weekly. But certainly none of this makes the jungle a home or a permanent solution.
What we found on our visit was a group of people in transit but without a sense of how to get any further in their journey. What we want to be is a source for friendship that offers hope that perhaps there could be a future for them… perhaps even here. There is a process for seeking asylum in France as there would be in whichever country they are trying to get to. But questions certainly remain: What would motivate these currently unregistered asylum seekers to stop traveling and see if France can become home? And, how can a person get a sense for his potential to be a contributing member of the community here while living in a jungle?
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John and Kaylee Kolditz
Kaylee founded Refugee Connect in 2008. John joined the work in 2011 as we investigated the refugee situation in Europe. But our faith and cross-cultural journeys have been a work-in-progress for many years. Much of this blog reflects that. ************************************************ We met in Austin, TX, while volunteering at a serving event at Gateway Church and have been married since 2002. Marriage, parenting and ministry all require a great deal of intentionality, humility and true reliance on God for strength, wisdom, and grace. It is a journey we are grateful to be on together. Ultimately, what matters to us is building into meaningful relationships in ways that, to the best of our ability and by God's grace, demonstrate the love and hope Jesus freely offers to us all. ************************************************ We bring both business and ministry backgrounds into our current work. John started a business in his 20's and helped build several other businesses. He has also served with churches in a variety of roles including as an assistant pastor, director of community development, and missions board member. Kaylee left her marketing career to become the global missions director for our home church in Austin, TX, then founded a local refugee ministry, and became TEFL certified (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) in order to prepare for our work overseas. We have led short-term teams domestically and internationally, and served with a variety of cross-cultural ministries. In 2008, we sensed a call to build into the church in Europe, which was also around the time when God broke Kaylee’s heart for refugees. Since then, God has continued to weave together this heart for refugees, desire to serve alongside the church, and focus on His call to Europe.
Refugee Stories (4)
Unaccompanied Refugee Youth (7)
unaccompanied refugee children