In certain ways, compared to the French camps, conditions in our detainment centers are actually worse. One refugee in France complained about not having fat in which to cook his fresh vegetables. Our young detainees have no fresh produce at all. Unlike in Clint, where the kids weren’t even given toothbrushes, inmates at Rivesaltes Camp in France had access to a dentist (though, as a letter-writer points out, the dentist had to work without a drill). At Gurs, women and children at least had beds or cots, and “coverlets” that were “sufficient in number,” while children in Clint have been sleeping on the floor in freezing cells, coverless, the lights kept on at all hours.
One inmate at Les Milles, the mother of a sick child, wrote that life in the camp was “terrible for me, and for my poor little boy, who had to witness such abominable scenes.” Amid the misery, one can’t help but note that at least she was caring for her own child, and that the sick boy had the comfort of his mother’s presence.
The inmates in France also had access to the outside world. They wrote letters, and well-wishers sent gifts — a package wrapping preserved in Fry’s archives, addressed to an inmate at Vernet, is marked “cadeau.” The border station in Clint, on the other hand, has turned away gifts of food, diapers and clothes.