OK so my brain is full of information, both from being on the ground in Calais this week, and from all the reading I’ve been doing and updates I’ve been seeing from all of our friends also working on the ground. I therefore thought it time to share what I know about the bulldozing due to destroy huge amounts of the Jungle, starting Monday…
The first thing, and biggest scandal to me, is the how far removed the people making these decisions seem to be from the actual situation on the ground. It seems pretty clear that those with the fate of the camp at their discretion don’t seem to have ever been there. For example, the authorities announced last week that they would be bulldozing the entire southern section of the camp, home to 800-1000 people. HOWEVER, since this decision was made, our amazing friends on the ground have been working tirelessly to put together a thorough and accurate census of exactly who would actually be affected…
Well guess what…?
It turns out more that 3000 people live in the affected southern zone, 400 of which are children, and 300 of whom are unaccompanied. Alone.
This is SOOOO far away from the number given by authorities it’s scary. And this leads to the next problem…
Authorities also said those made homeless by the bulldozing would be re-housed either in the ‘container camp’ on site or taken to COA’s (accommodation and orientation centres) throughout France. This might sound like a better solution than the Jungle, which we have been banging on about being an awful place to live, not even meeting basic human needs, for months now, but unfortunately that’s not the case…
Although the Jungle is bad, people have made it home. They have made shops, restaurants, barbers, community kitchens, lives for themselves. They have hung pictures on their tarpaulin walls, they have planted flowers in plastic bottles outside their front doors. Some people have door mats, some people little bedside tables, where they keep a donated English novel, underlining the words they are yet to learn. Every body has personal touches, a snippet of their individuality, a slither of their dignity woven into those wooden structures, constructed with love by volunteers and refugees alike.
The container camp is soulless.
12 beds to a narrow container. A computerised handprint scan needed to get in, meaning many refugees do not want to move there. And not just this, it sleeps 1500 in total and there are only 461 spaces left. So where are the rest of the 3000+ people going to go…?
Their other option is to be relocated somewhere else in France.
They have the opportunity to get blindly onto the buses leaving the Jungle, with the little possessions they have, without knowing where they will end up. It could be a caravan park or a disused holiday centre in 92 different locations across France. Again, this option is only available to maximum 60 people per day, so what about everyone else who doesn’t have the chance to take this opportunity before their home is bulldozed? All those 2000+ people the authorities haven’t accounted for?
Finally, many of my friends in the camp have told me they are very scared to get on these buses, hearing from friends who have done so before them that their asylum claims have been rejected. They are scared.
So these are their options (if you can call them that…), all happening in a logistically impossible, undignified amount of time. How can you expect these thousands of victims of war, survivors of genocide, the world’s most vulnerable people, to move en mass, having lost their homes and everything they knew once before, possibly suffering trauma and with hundreds of unaccompanied children in the mix, in a matter of days.
Within the planned eviction / bulldozing zone, we are also losing very important facilities and support built up over time, often using crowdfunded money and huge amounts of effort. Places like the women and children’s centre, the library, the vaccination clinic, the distribution points for food and warm clothing, blankets and sleeping bags (there are no aid distributions within the official container camp and no cooking facilities).
So when the French post this expected eviction notice tomorrow, giving 24/48 hours to vacate, before the bulldozing commences, I don’t know what people are going to do, or what is going to happen.
So in the meantime, what can we do?
Firstly, watch and share the attached video to fully understand what will be lost if these plans go ahead.
Secondly, sign this petition to stop the destruction.
(It’s in French so selecting UK is ‘Royaume-Uni’)
We will be on sight to stand witness, document developments and attempt to share what is happening as far and wide as possible, the world needs to know about this injustice.