Emmaus International

Ludovic has been a companion in Emmaus Périgueux, France, for the last 3 years. Current migration policy leaves him feeling outraged and thus he will cross the Strait of Gibraltar in a kayak in early September, alongside other members of Emmaus, to defend Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

Where did the idea to do the crossing come from?

emmaus traversee article13I remember a meeting in the community where we discussed organising a striking, powerful initiative to raise awareness about the people dying in the Mediterranean. The leaders of the Emmaus Saint-Etienne community at the time, Alain and Maria, swam and kayaked across the Strait of Gibraltar back in 2015. We thought they were crazy at first but it worked.
We thought it would be a good idea to relaunch this initiative but to promote it more this time and to give the Emmaus groups the opportunity to get involved.
So we organised a first training weekend in Dordogne, followed by several further training sessions. More and more communities have become involved has time has gone on - with more people offering to take part and by giving moral and financial support to the initiative.

Why did you decide to take part? 

I have many friends in the community who have immigrated and when they talk about their journeys it's really hard to hear. It makes you realise that our nice republican values are not fully applied and that we are becoming more and more inward-looking.
It's an absolute scandal to accept -  because "it's far away" or "at least they won't be coming here now" - that people are left to die in such conditions. Beyond the question of getting rid of borders/border controls our world should be much more open, we should be able to travel around it much easier. The inequality between a French person, who is allowed to travel to many countries, and an African, for example, is just not right. It's the same between North and South America and between rich and poor countries across the globe.

Have you ever been involved in a project like this before?

When I first came to the community they quickly started to encourage me to learn. We have many opportunities offered to us in the community but this is the first time I've been involved in such an important project.
I'm not a great swimmer, I don't like the sea and I'm afraid of falling into the water... but I'm not doing the crossing for me. It's something I feel very strongly about.

How have you been preparing for the physical and mental challenge of the crossing?

I have been training, doing long distances in a kayak, but it’s going to be hard for the swimmers. That's our main role really - to support the swimmers. The challenge for the kayakers will be more mental than physical - we'll be sat in a kayak for almost 5 hours!

Has this project provided a boost to the community?

4 of us from the community will be doing the crossing by kayak - the two community leaders, another companion and myself. The project has brought the community closer together, we have had debates about the reasons behind the crossing but everyone now agrees that it's a useful initiative. It has started a fresh debate in the community, the companions are more and more interested in what we're doing now and what we'll be doing next. Everyone has been looking on Facebook and at the Article 13 blog, they'll all be watching live when we do the crossing. Even people that aren't directly involved in the project feel part of it. It's something palpable, something concrete for us to get involved in. Even our customers have been offering us words of encouragement and have been congratulating us - it shows that not everyone in France is an idiot, some people offer solidarity, like we do in the community.

What do you expect will be the impact of the crossing?

Crossing the Strait of Gibraltar is just one part of it - the next steps have not been decided yet but this struggle will continue and the goal is to open up a dialogue about migration. We want to counter the messages of hate that are posted by anonymous people who are hiding behind their screens and rejecting dialogue.