The Calais refugee crisis and its supply chain

There’s a big refugee camp at Calais housing a large number of people in difficult conditions. Unsurprisingly, this is generating an amount of interest in how the people there can be helped, politics and discussions about economic migrants aside.

There is a consequence of this, which shows the need for a very clear understanding of requirements and supply chains before making any decisions, which read directly into the challenges of building the needs of a commercial supply chain.

In essence, a number of issues exist, principally in the identification of needs, and addressing the way in which those needs can be satisfied. Those on site are faced with the impact of what happens when the wrong needs are identified and ongoing consequences of that.

At present, those trying to manage the supply chain on site are faced with the well meaning delivery of the wrong stuff. Boxes of childrens clothes, ladies summer dresses, even stiletto heeled shoes have been delivered to a camp of almost exclusively men aged between 20 and 50. The consequence of unplanned drops from well wishers is a scene of rapidly reviewed and discarded gifts, not because the recipients are ungrateful, but because the gifts are ill considered. The net result is a sequence of poor TV images, apparent ingratitude, and mounting costs for storage for unneeded items.

At present, workers on the site believe the primary needs are winter clothing for men, appropriate tents as shelter, and managed food supplies. As a preference, there needs to be appropriate marking to show what is actually in the boxes arriving so distribution and storage can be effectively managed.

Using a Procurement analogy here, the largest challenge is the gap between the donors of aid and the site organisers and recipients. It is really difficult to ascertain what is needed because the needs are confused, unclear, and often appear to be owned by other parties. For this camp, there are even reported cases where individuals have represented themselves as being aid workers and able to channel goods and funds, only to be found later to have misrepresented that position.

So, as a concerned doner, what should anyone do?

The key seems to be to identify  true owners of the support activity going on and making sure that our own efforts align to those A great link to do this is here: which provides regular updates on the situation and needs.

Susie Hudson, Smart Brown Dog’s marketing specialist, writes of her own experiences of organising a food donation here:

Mark Hubbard thinks about sales and purchasing at


About Mark Hubbard

I set up a specialist purchasing consultancy and a business focussing on seeking innovation. I work all over the world with clients, helping purchasing teams develop new ways of delivering value for their businesses. I love thinking about how purchasing works, and how it can be better, and I'd love to share some of those thoughts with you
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