The ‘Jun­gle’ camp in France: What is it?

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

France be­gan clear­ing the so­called “Jun­gle” mi­grant camp in the north­ern city of Calais on Mon­day ahead of its planned de­mo­li­tion. Here are five key ques­tions to ex­plain what is at stake:

What is the ‘Jun­gle’?

It is a col­lec­tion of tents and shel­ters on a muddy, windswept patch of land near Calais, north­ern France, that has be­come a mag­net for mi­grants seek­ing to cross the Chan­nel to reach Bri­tain. Var­i­ous squalid set­tle­ments have ex­isted for decades around the gritty town that is home to one of the coun­try’s big­gest ports and the Chan­nel Tun­nel rail link con­nect­ing France and Bri­tain. In 1999, the San­gatte refugee camp run by the Red Cross was set up to man­age the flow of mi­grants, but this was shut down three years later by then in­te­rior min­is­ter Ni­co­las Sarkozy. The 700 to 800 in­hab­i­tants, mainly Afghan mi­grants, moved to a new lo­ca­tion that be­came known as the “Jun­gle”.

Hun­dreds of po­lice de­mol­ished this site in Septem­ber 2009 de­spite protests by anti-glob­al­iza­tion ac­tivists and left­ist groups. From April 2015, a new “Jun­gle” camp emerged as hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple headed to Europe from the Mid­dle East and Africa in the con­ti­nent’s big­gest mi­grant cri­sis since World War II. The pop­u­la­tion of mainly Afghans, Iraqis, Eritre­ans and Su­danese has peaked at more than 10,000, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal char­i­ties, but in its fi­nal days was be­lieved to be around 6,000-8,000.

The camp is near to where thou­sands of lor­ries drive on to fer­ries or trains head­ing for Bri­tain, just 35 kilo­me­ters across the Chan­nel. De­spite the dan­gers, des­per­ate mi­grants try to break into the ve­hi­cles and hide. Those with money pay peo­ple smug­glers to ar­range the cross­ing. Rather than ap­ply for asy­lum in France, most have pre­ferred to head to Bri­tain for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons. Some have fam­ily net­works there, while oth­ers are at­tracted to Bri­tain’s rep­u­ta­tion as a more eco­nom­i­cally vi­brant coun­try. The English lan­guage is also a big draw. As the evac­u­a­tion ap­proached, more and more res­i­dents be­gan seek­ing asy­lum in France, see­ing it as the only way to avoid de­por­ta­tion.

How bad is it?

Con­di­tions are bleak. San­i­ta­tion is lim­ited and ill­nesses spread eas­ily. Women and chil­dren risk sex­ual vi­o­lence, while brawls and deadly road ac­ci­dents are com­mon­place. For the lo­cal econ­omy, re­peated tar­get­ing of trucks has se­ri­ously dis­rupted traf­fic at the port and Chan­nel tun­nel. Lo­cals com­plain about the im­age of their town, and Calais bars and restau­rants say trade has been se­verely hit. Protesters blocked roads in Septem­ber to de­mand the camp’s clo­sure. The con­di­tions have also drawn crit­i­cism from the United Na­tions and char­i­ties, em­bar­rass­ing the French government.

Why has it caused ten­sion?

In 2003, the two coun­tries signed the so-called Le Tou­quet ac­cord, which ef­fec­tively moved Bri­tain’s border with France to the French side of the Chan­nel. Un­der the agree­ment, Bri­tain pays millions of eu­ros (dol­lars) each year for se­cu­rity in Calais-the lat­est in­vest­ment be­ing a wall along the road lead­ing to the port-but it is French po­lice and border agents who are on the front­line. Many French politi­cians be­lieve Lon­don has sim­ply out­sourced a prob­lem to France and the agree­ment should be torn up.

“We can’t tol­er­ate what is go­ing on in Calais, the im­age is dis­as­trous for our coun­try,” the cen­tre-right fron­trun­ner for next year’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, Alain Juppe, said in an in­ter­view last pub­lished last week. The So­cial­ist government has ruled out scrap­ping the agree­ment for now, but there are signs of frus­tra­tion with Bri­tain. Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande called on the Bri­tish to “play their part” in Septem­ber, while In­te­rior Min­is­ter Bernard Cazeneuve re­minded Lon­don of its “moral duty” to take in chil­dren from the camp be­lieved to be num­bered in the hun­dreds. — AFP

CALAIS: Mi­grants look at a shack set on fire dur­ing the de­mo­li­tion of the Calais ‘Jun­gle’ camp, in Calais, north­ern France yes­ter­day as hun­dreds of mi­grants boarded buses on the sec­ond day of a mas­sive op­er­a­tion to clear the squalid set­tle­ment. — AFP

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