Update from the camps

Life in the Calais jungle continues to get harder as numbers approach ten thousand in a third of the space they had to occupy last year when they were told to move onto the area of dunes the Calasiens call ‘La Lande’.

At the beginning of August the French authorities conducted a raid on the restaurants and shops in the jungle, accusing them of illegally trading and operating in contravention of health and safety regulations. This obviously had a devastating affect on the morale of the residents. Not only were their provisions forcefully removed, but also the equipment they use for cooking, and other items. Many of the proprietors were arrested including the man who runs the Children’s Restaurant. This provides free food and is a vital resource especially for the unaccompanied minors, whose numbers are a significant proportion of the over 800 children now present.

CamCRAG volunteers traveled to Calais the weekend of the thirteenth of August shortly after a court ruling that this action was not in accordance with the French law, and required the prefecture not to carry out a planned demolition of the cafe spaces. It’s unclear whether they will be legally allowed to continue trading.

Utopia 56 have now officially stopped working at ‘La Liniere’, the Dunkirk refugee camp setup by the mayor of Grande Synthe and MSF. This is now being run in a much more formal manner by the French charity AFEJI. Utopia 56 posted a fairly severe condemnation of this change in status and restriction on the freedom of the refugees there, and of the apparent change of tune of the mayor.

However, despite statements that unoccupied shelters would be removed, and only refugee women with children would be admitted to the camp, and a dip in numbers down to around seven hundred (many drifting to Calais where they have more freedom), in the past couple of weeks it seems that numbers are swelling again. There have been more calls out for volunteers and aid.

Fleeing back to the countries they have run from is in itself a dangerous thing to do. Two Kurdish refugees who decided they would be better off returning to Kurdistan to fight ISIS rather than live in the jungle were very recently shot to death by Macedonian border guards.

Refugee camps in and around Paris are constantly being demolished, and we can but hope that the mayor of Calais’ statement that the jungle will be demolished in September does not become reality. France does not have the capacity to house these people if they are not even allowed to stay in this awful place.