The Calais “Jungle” made the tragic plight of migrants VISIBLE.
Is this the real reason French & British authorities were determined to erase it?
The global refugee crisis is characterized by certain universals which don’t change, and can be seen in its every manifestation: the displacement of people / entire populations; caused by government actions; the removal of human rights; governments conspiring to punish the victims, subjecting them to further, continual displacement.
With displacement comes invisibility. With loss of place comes loss of voice. As a refugee, people become invisible. Even more so, as an uncounted / “illegal” / “migrant”, not recognized as a “refugee” per se. They have no voice in society.
Our applications are stamped “refused: not a real refugee.” With that we disappear. The human rights crimes we reported, officially disappear. The neighbours and family we saw tortured, killed, disappear from public record. No victim, no crime.
I am the one in ten: a number on a list
I am the one in ten: even though I don’t exist
Nobody knows me, but I’m always there.
A statistical reminder of a world that doesn’t care. (UB40)
The Calais Jungle made these people visible. It became a rallying point. It was a place where people could find some of these suffering thousands; all together, in one place. Many came there, out of the goodness of their hearts, to do what they could, to share what they had.
Many stayed to share the life of those who lived there. They began to listen, and to understand something of people’s stories; something of what’s happening all over the world.
Calais became a central meeting place for people from all over the world: those who had suffered some of the worst human rights abuse; and others who cared about such mistreatment. People who had survived incredible trauma, and had nowhere else to go; and others who had courage, caring, imagination, to share a terrible place, in solidarity, to try to find solutions; even though they didn’t have to be there.
As dreadful a place as it has been, Calais had become a place of building solidarity between the common people who suffered these wrongs, and common people from all over the EU, who want to do something about it.
Is that the real reason for its violent destruction by French authorities? Stage managed with comforting announcements on the BBC, that all these people are being taken to “centres” where they can “apply for asylum”.
It was easy to hear these announcements on the news several times a day. How many listened to the survivor saying they would not go to such centres; because they know they have no future in France?
We at Just-US also know from experience that invitations to “come apply for asylum” are often largely a fraud by governments: who have no intention of granting it. We see clearly that France made no provision for hundreds of unaccompanied children living in the camp, because they didn’t mean to.
There is no military solution to the global refugee crisis.
People need the freedom to live in basic human dignity, without fear for their lives, their freedom, their survival. We need to assure they can find that in their own countries, if they want to.
Until they can, bulldozers, barricades, and baton charges are not the answer.
For those who’d like to understand more about the Calais “Jungle”, we at Just-US highly recommend this graphic novel; written from the experiences of aid volunteers who lived & worked there; and the migrants’ stories they heard: