While conditions in ‘the Jungle’ refugee camp in Calais have long been harsh, many residents are resisting the French government’s attempts to move them to new accommodation. Mitch Mitchell explains why, and calls for renewed solidarity with those seeking shelter.
The situation in Calais has changed from awful to desperate.
The French state have started to insist that they clear 100 metres of land in the camp, currently inhabited by refugees and makeshift shops and community kitchens. The reason for this appears to be to create a ‘buffer zone’ between the camp and the motorway, to make it harder for people to jump on lorries stuck in traffic jams.
In order to facilitate this, they have built a new camp for 1500 people, made from shipping containers. There will be 15 people per container and there will only be room for sleeping, so clothing and any belongings will have to be at a minimum.
To access these containers, people will have to pass fingerprint recognition points on the doors. Obviously, the fingerprints will be taken and recorded. It has been suggested that this is the modern version of the tattoos with which the Nazis branded concentration camp inmates.
By their very nature, these containers will have little natural light and will almost certainly be extremely cold in the winter and hot in the summer. Perhaps even more worryingly, any resident of this ‘haven’ will have to apply for asylum in France and will only be allowed to stay whilst their application is being considered.
According to Pascal, who works for Secours Catholique, a French charity set up to help homeless people that has been distributing clothing to the refugees, those who achieve French citizenship are given nothing else and will merely add to France’s growing homeless problem once they are again evicted from the new camp.
Unsurprisingly, the refugees have been resisting this move, many for some of the reasons given above and some because they already have family members in other countries, such as the UK.
The authorities have given people 3 days to facilitate the move, although there are strong rumours that this deadline has been extended by a day. They then plan to move in with bulldozers to flatten the area.
Action is being taken to resist this and activists from London2Calais and other groups are rushing out to Calais as a matter of urgency in order to give support to the refugees.
Added to this is the news coming out of Denmark that the Danish parliament are currently discussing whether to implement laws which will force asylum seekers in that country to give up money and belongings to “pay their way”. This is similar to treatment meted out to Jews who were being sent to the death camps during WW2.
It should be noted that Denmark is currently ruled by a coalition of a right wing “conservative” party and the Danish People’s Party, a far right group similar to UKIP.
So far, the British government has been silent, both on the new concentration camp and the debate in the Danish parliament.
London2Calais have called a “die-in” demonstration for this coming Saturday (16th Jan) at the Eurostar terminal at St. Pancras station. We also plan further actions both here and in France, where we will be joining with demos called by the refugees, in order to support the refugees and to keep up the pressure on the UK government to open the borders.