Calais: it was like a jungle once, and it will be again

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As of 2 November 2016, some migrants were still living in Calais, in what was once called ‘the jungle’. It may be ‘the day of the dead’ in France, but migrants still refuse to acknowledge the death of their hope – which is still to go to Britain.

On Tuesday 1 November, what was once the greatest shantytown in France had been totally destroyed. And the vast majority of Calais’ migrants had been scattered in various camps all over the country. The last ones staying in the French harbour were minors and women with their children.

Miles away from the Channel, miles and miles away from the ‘jungle’, bombs and guns are raging again in Iraq and Syria. Even if nothing can be certain, it is likely that some refugees might soon be back in Calais. But at the same time French and British governments still feign ignorance about the reasons why thousands of people are fleeing their own homes every day.

On the morning of Wednesday 2 November, more than 1,500 minors were scattered by bus to 60 centres in France. There, some French officials will consider their wish to move to Britain. The UK Home Office is also involved in reviewing these cases, and have already allowed 300 young migrants to finally cross the Channel.

French police now has to deal with the 400 women and children left in Calais. Most of them will soon be sent to an emergency centre which is being built in a former water factory in Ivry, a town close to Paris.

What was called ‘the jungle’ is now burnt to ashes. Many migrants set their own shanties on fire at the weekend, in an act representing the only way they had to finally have their own say. French police and officials never gave them any choice, while they were treating migrants like cattle.

Charities and humanitarian staff have reported police brutalities during the removal of ‘the jungle’. These reports can easily be confirmed by the way French police regularly deal with migrants in Paris.

For both the French and British governments, it is now clear that the border between Calais and Dover is closed, and that no more migrants will be allowed in Britain. A so-called ‘socialist’ government works hand in hand with a very conservative one.

But governments’ truth might not be the migrants’ one. French media have reported that half of the minors sent to Meurthe-et-Moselle or Charente-Maritime have already vanished. All of them were as committed to go to Britain as Home Secretary Amber Rudd was to prevent them from doing so.

Since the closure of the Sangatte center in 2002, Calais has gone from one humanitarian crisis to another. Let’s remember that, in 2009, a first ‘jungle camp’ had been removed. But it did not prevent the installation of another one five years later.


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