This weekend I’m going to Lille in the north of France. Lille is a one-hour drive from Calais, home to the largest makeshift, outdoor migrant-refugee camp in Europe, better known as “the jungle”. Charities estimate there are about 1,200 unaccompanied children living in appalling conditions in the Calais camp, exposed to abuse, exploitation and road accidents while awaiting their uncertain fate.
Looking at these photos, one might think they were taken in Soweto or some bombed-out village in Syria. Or even hurricane-decimated Haiti. But, guess what, folks? This is FRANCE, country of Human Rights, the land of liberté-égalité-fraternité.
Mud, misery, squalor, disease and rats. The mayor of the French port city of Calais is urging the government to completely dismantle the notorious camp as soon as possible.
Migrants living in the notorious Calais camp dubbed the ‘Jungle’ will be dispersed among reception centers all over France “within weeks,” French President Francois Hollande said last week as he reiterated his pledge to close the facility. “There should be no [migrant] camps in France,” Hollande said, adding that the conditions in the migrant shanty town near the northern French port city of Calais are “unacceptable,” especially for those fleeing war and persecution.
Juliet in Paris says – How many years have these camps existed and for how long have they been “unacceptable”? It is only now that campaigning for the 2017 French presidential election begins does Hollande suddenly make an appearance and a declaration.
The migrants currently living in Calais will be moved to reception centers built all over France, with each facility hosting between 40 and 50 people, the French president said as he visited one of the places located in the Loire Valley city of Tours on Saturday. The centers will hold the migrants for up to four months while their cases are examined, Hollande said, adding that those considered ineligible for asylum will then be deported to their countries of origin.
London and Paris have struck agreements on some issues surrounding the camp, including the construction of a giant wall – nicknamed the ‘Great Wall of Calais’ – on the approach road to the city’s port. The concrete barrier is aimed at stopping migrants from entering the UK.
The construction has been slammed by human rights groups, with Amnesty International stating that it will merely force desperate people to seek more dangerous alternatives.
Despite agreeing on the construction of the wall, and the UK paying approximately £2 million (US$2.6m) toward the project, the two sides have long clashed over how much responsibility Britain should take for the Calais crisis.
This is not a wholly French problem. Britain is equally blameworthy. Read this article in The Guardian about the frustration of Lord Dubs, a former child refugee himself, brought to Britain from Czechoslovakia on one of the Kindertransport trains in 1939 to escape the Nazis –