Northern Ireland

Seeing the Calais refugee camp through the eyes of a little girl

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Media captionA child's view of the Calais refugee camp

We have seen many pictures of the refugee camps in Calais and other places.

But seeing them through the eyes of a nine-year-old child from Northern Ireland gives a different perspective.

Nicole Graham from Portadown, County Armagh, spent half term in Calais working on the refugee camp with her mum, dad and three other siblings.

At first it was scary, seeing all the people in the tents, she said.

"It wasn't very nice to see all the things on the ground and very muddy.

Image copyright Graham family
Image caption Nicole with Sam, 2, whom she met in the Calais camp

"I gave out water and tea and coffee and we handed out bubbles to the younger children.

"I felt very sad for them."

Her mother, Paula, said people did ask why they were bringing children with them.

"My husband had been out before Christmas and we knew it was safe and she didn't leave my side," she said.

Image caption The Graham family travelled to France to help the Calais camp refugees

"We had to do something. We couldn't sit back and do nothing.

"Children can do a lot - there's a job for everyone."

The family went with 12 others from the Vineyard Church in Dungannon.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Bulldozers re-entered the camp on Tuesday morning after the migrants were ordered to move

Dad Nigel packed the family's camper van with supplies before Christmas and thought it would be a one-off trip - but he had to go back.

"The conditions are appalling. You'd do time for keeping animals in those conditions here," he said.

"One lady came in and she just wanted somewhere where she could feed her youngster and wash the bottle and put her youngster down to sleep - she has nowhere dry that is clean. Her child was eight months old."

The Grahams' eldest son, Danny, is 21 years old. He found seeing all the unaccompanied children the most difficult part.

It is estimated that there are 400 children with no parents or adult supervision in the Calais camp.

"It was scary because some of the kids that Nicole was playing with had no fear," he said.

"They had learned the word 'axle' in English because they were trying to find a lorry that they could try to climb on to, in the hope that it would go to the UK."

The Graham family helped build a shelter. But most of it was dismantled when the bulldozers moved into the "jungle" camp on Monday.

Paula said this was devastating because even though the conditions were appalling, it was all that the people have.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A woman threatened to cut her wrist as French police tried to remove her from the camp on Tuesday

"To see it destroyed is soul-destroying. The little communities they've built up and now it's gone," she said.

"We will definitely go back and try to do more."

For Nicole, the trip has had a big impact: "I've been thinking about the way they have to sleep and that I've got a bed," she said.

Demolition teams moved into the French port to dismantle more makeshift shelters this week.

French police have warned that they will use force if the migrants refuse to move to nearby shipping containers.

French authorities believe about 1,000 migrants will be affected by the eviction plan, while aid agencies say the number of people living there is much higher.

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