Wigan social workers will visit the infamous Jungle refugee camp as part of a continent-wide investigation for the European Parliament.
Expert professionals from the borough will be part of a team of around 30 from the UK meeting people living in the camp near Calais after fleeing war and persecution in the Middle East and Africa.
At the moment it’s all going one way with the EU referendum, that refugees are terrible and we shouldn’t have them here, so we want to show another angleMalcolm Jones
The Wiganers and their colleagues will spend the best part of two days interviewing asylum seekers to assess issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, the situation for children travelling alone and mental health problems.
The Calais reports will then be combined with analysis from camps across Europe for the continent’s elected representatives to consider in Brussels.
Ashton social worker and mental health professional Malcolm Jones, who is part of the UK delegation, said: “What I want to do is show how terrible the situation is for refugees and all the problems they face, and also tell the truth about what their journeys have been like.
“We’re going to a conference in London on the Saturday morning and then we will go over to Calais for the rest of the weekend.
“We will spend time talking to people with the help of interpreters to show what it is really about.
“It feels like I am doing something positive, using my skills and experience to assess people and work out if they are suffering trauma or other mental health problems.
“Our findings will then go into a Europe-wide report for the European Parliament.”
Malcolm, 54, and fellow Wiganers Kay Winnard and Claire Riley will spend the weekend of June 4 and 5 at the Jungle in a visit organised by Social Work Action Network in partnership with Liverpool Hope University.
Health and social workers have previously joined forces under the organisation’s banner to campaign on issues such as day centre closures in Liverpool, but Malcolm says the refugee project will be the most ambitious one he has worked on.
The social workers’ trip will be followed a couple of weeks later by a delegation of trade unionists which is going to the Jungle to show solidarity with the inhabitants’ plight.
Malcolm says he hopes the group’s work in the Jungle will allow MEPs seeing the final report to get a more rounded picture of the current migration crisis rather than discussing it in simple terms.
He said: “We want to highlight the issues people face because we don’t think they are being talked about.
“Hopefully we can say these people are human beings and we need to get some publicity for the human side of it.
“It’s not just about people as commodities, it’s the stories and seeing them as people.
“They are fleeing war and there are unaccompanied children in the camp.
“Whatever we see we will highlight. I feel our research-based findings evaluated by a university could be useful when the issue is being used as a political football in the House of Commons.
“At the moment it’s all going one way with the EU referendum, that refugees are terrible and we shouldn’t have them here, so we want to show another angle.”