Calais Jungle demolished but migration crisis endures

There are fears that demolition of Jungle will create newer, harder-to-monitor mini-Calais.

Migrants waiting near migrant camp in Calais

2016/10/30 Issue: 79 Page: 1

The Arab Weekly
Mahmud el-Shafey

LONDON - First came the buses, then the bulldozers and sledge­hammers. In a massive operation that took more than three days, most of the estimated 10,000 economic migrants and refugees living in the Calais Jungle were relocated and the camp demolished.

It ended in fire, with tents and makeshift structures set ablaze on the final day of the operation. Many media outlets reported that the fires were started by angry migrants as a final gesture of defiance before leaving the camp but human rights activists blamed people affiliated with the “No Borders” anarchist collective.

French officials quickly labelled the demolition of the Calais Jungle a success but many refugees and migrants remained in the charred remains of the camp and the surrounding area. Some said they would be content to stay in France but others said they would continue to seek a way to enter the United Kingdom.

“France is a good country but just not right for me and my situation,” said a 32-year-old Afghan who refused to divulge his full name. “I am going to stay and I will build another jungle,” he was quoted as saying by international media.

Questions remain as to what the future holds for the thousands of migrants and refugees who either would not or could not register with the French authorities for relocation from Calais and remain in northern France. Or what the future holds for migrants and refugees who are housed in the more than 160 reception centres across France for the next four months.

“Nothing is clear at the moment. The government wants to calm everything down. But so far we haven’t seen any sign that this situation will be resolved, said French human rights activist Yasser Louati, who monitored the demolition in Calais.

There are fears that the demolition of the Jungle will create a newer, harder-to-monitor mini-Calais, particularly as many migrants and refugees appear committed to enter Britain to join family members.

“Yes, that’s bound to happen and who can blame those refugees? We are still monitoring the situation. We have seen people who have sought to go to Brittany in western France [from Calais]. We can expect to see more information coming out about mini-Calais in the coastal areas and the countryside,” Louati said.

Mahmud el-Shafey is an Arab Weekly correspondent in London.

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