Europe’s camp of shame

Occupants of Jungle are, for most part, economic refugees but as conflicts across MENA gather momentum, camp houses mostly political refugees, many of them with simply nowhere to go.

An unaccompanied Muslim minor heads to Friday prayers at the makeshift tent mosque in the Calais migrant camp.


2016/06/26 Issue: 62 Page: 15


The Arab Weekly
Claude Salhani



The camp of squatters at the edge of the north­ern French port city of Calais is often referred to as “the Jungle”. Indeed, this “jungle” is not only an eyesore — a small city built haphazardly with bits of cardboard, tin and anything else migrants could get their hands on — but it is an eyesore at one of France’s ports of entry. Not what Paris wants to be the first site seen by visitors to France

The Jungle is also a political failure; it is a humanitarian shame and it is a sin on the collective con­science of every political leader in France and Great Britain.

The Jungle exists in a sort of geopolitical purgatory. It is a place where thousands of refugees from conflicted countries found their drive to a safe haven blocked by red tape and immigration laws.

Inside the camp, there are no laws on the books. Heck, there aren’t even books there. If there were, chances are they would be used keep fires going to give refugees some warmth for a minute or two longer.

By some fluke — or perhaps lack of luck — these immigrants find themselves so close yet so far from what they hoped would be their final destination, England. Why England? Perhaps because they speak English. Also, once inside the United Kingdom, the migrants hope to benefit from Britain’s immigra­tion policies. The difficulty is get­ting there in the first place.

The occupants of the Jungle are, for the most part, economic refugees but as conflicts across the Middle East and North Africa gather momentum, the camp houses mostly political refugees, many of them with simply nowhere to go.

There are also Kurds fleeing Turkey, Somalis, Ethiopians and many others. However, it is not their nationality that is important in this context. What is alarming is that such conditions are permitted to exist in Europe.

The refugees are in the Jungle be­cause it is the closest jumping point to Great Britain. In the interim they squat, waiting with an uncertain future, rampant crime that includes forcing women — even young girls — into prostitution, and, of course, drugs. Not to mention the opportu­nities that such camps offer jihadist recruiters.

These abominable crimes are tak­ing place in the heart of Europe and in the country where human rights were first launched. By any means what is taking place in the Jungle is a crime and those responsible are criminals.

What is happening in the Jungle is a crime all the more so because, by French law, it is a crime if one fails to provide assistance to someone in danger. The thousands of residents, especially the younger ones, of the Jungle are definitely in danger.

Migrants living in the Jungle try almost on a daily basis to sneak into Britain. They hide in lorries, cars, ferries or trains travelling through Calais in the Eurotunnel. French authorities send out regular patrol of riot police, which often end up clashing with migrants.

Police patrol the perimeter of the camp but leave the interior to its own fate, meaning mostly that it ends up being controlled by some sort of organised crime group.

Frustrated by their situation, the continued uncertainty of the future and being so close yet so far from England, the migrants periodically storm the highway leading to the port of Calais, blocking traffic for hours, as they try to sneak aboard any vehicle headed to Britain. French police typically fire tear gas and even deploy bulldozers to tear down parts of the shantytown-like areas of the Jungle.

The Jungle has attracted pimps and people traffickers who focus on the large number of orphan children who wind up in the Jungle. Accord­ing to multiple reports, there are hundreds of children in the camp living on their own and who become easy prey. Many are from countries where war has torn them from their land and family.

This situation should not be al­lowed to exist in a country such as France.

The immediate task should be finding a way to resettle all refugees and to close this despicable place of shame.


Claude Salhani is the Opinion section editor of The Arab Weekly.


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