Charlie Gladwell explains the situation in Calais from the perspective of an aid volunteer.
The end of the Calais Jangle amounted to a horrific coalescence of political forces combined with equally perverted media coverage. Having been working in the camp before and during the demolition I was shocked not only by the demolition itself but also the distorted reporting within much of the media.
The dehumanizing language; the heroic presentation of May’s “refusal to bow down” to her moral, but moreover (under Dublin III) legal, responsibilities; the claims of “success” reported during the closing moments of the demolition despite the 100’s of now homeless kids; the repeated use of this “malevolent vicious refugee” holding a knife, which is in fact a photo of a long-term volunteer who was cutting flaming tarpaulin off tents; or most importantly the lack of explanation on why refugees were refusing asylum in France.
It has therefore been very difficult to get clear information about the “Jangle” so here I hope to clear up some misunderstandings.
Firstly the “Jungle” is a mispronunciation of the original Urdu name ‘Jangle’, meaning ‘small forest’ that was given by the first refugees in 1999. Furthermore the largest ethnic demographic of the Jangle (40%) was Sudanese, not Syrian. In fact there were only around 100 Syrians, and this was a cornerstone of confusions about the Jangle. Confusions like the misgivings the refugees had over their promised opportunity for French asylum and movement from a dangerous, filthy, asbestos filled camp to the “real” housing in CAO’s.
I met children with cigarette burns up their arms from police
Despite the poverty, violence, mafia and drug problems, the jangle was an incredibly efficient zone of exception in relation to the inhumane incapability of western societies to deal with the issue. Outside of the camp illegal refugees are at risk of being arrested and mistreated by authorities. While there I heard about long illegal stints in jail, I met children with cigarette burns up their arms from police, and one man explained the horrific facial scars he had were from an allergic reaction to pepper-spray.
Now in the Jangle they remain in their limbo state but are stable, they have refuge from the risks that their status as refugees imposes upon them. Furthermore despite the poverty, the Jangle provided space for community and identity. It had restaurants, shops, and even a club! And due to the concentration of people and its exceptional status it was possible for aid organizations to work despite the political deadlock. It really was the best non-solution to the problem and, despite the positive outlook the media has projected, the substitute is appalling.
— ABC News (@abcnews) 24 November 2016
Although some of the small CAO’s (predominantly for families) in the south of France are nice, the majority are isolated warehouses, without enough food, filled with stretchers without pillows. One, where my friend is currently, has 3 showers to 100 people, and sinks that are designed to mimic a protruding bottom half of a woman; forcing these predominantly vulnerable Muslim men to simulate sexual acts just to wash their hands.
However even this doesn’t account for the true undisclosed barbarity of this irrational act, Most reported the Jangle residents didn’t want French asylum and ‘preferred Britain’, but the reason for this doesn’t seem to ever be reported. What’s never mentioned is that it’s not precisely that the refugees don’t want French asylum, but that claiming French asylum is too much of a risk.
if you fail, you risk deportation especially if the country doesn’t recognise your nation as dangerous.
When asylum seeking you have one chance to apply for asylum, where if you fail, you risk deportation especially if the country doesn’t recognise your nation as dangerous. France, unlike the UK, does not recognize Sudan as dangerous. It’s estimated that 80% of asylum claims by Sudanese are rejected meaning that a reason these people cannot accept French asylum is that it can amount to a death sentence.
This is why most want to go to the UK. Although the French authorities have given one month for refugees to exist in CAO’s without application, unless the refugees flee, the destruction of the camp has placed many on a countdown to deportation and possible death.
So one must remember that when they say they’ve processed the 10,000 refugees, because most aren’t Syrian (Syria is acknowledged as a war zone), this does not guarantee these refugees have found refuge, but means that the majority of the 10,000 refugees have been torn from their communities, make shift homes, and the accountability provided by the media to either be thrown back into their vulnerable extra-legal status on the streets of France or sent back to warzones where they will most likely be killed.
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