Calais businesses dare to hope for ‘apres-Jungle’ boost
A new scent is in the air in Calais called “apres-Jungle”, but it is not an exotic aftershave.
Rather it sums up the northern French port’s hopes and fears for the future following the dismantling of the notorious “Jungle” migrant camp in its backyard. The bars and restaurants of the high street, the Rue Royale, “used to be packed with Britons,” said pensioner Michelle Toulotte in a brasserie where staff outnumbered the customers.
“It’s about time” the Jungle was cleared, said Christophe Defever, owner of the Au Davydson brasserie, a stone’s throw from the town’s central rail station. “The economy has really suffered since they’ve been here,” he said. “It’s easier to count the shops that are closed than those that are open.”
While a quick tour of the city centre revealed that to be an exaggeration, the shuttered Le Tub disco in the Rue Royale attested to a more vibrant past.
The economy of Calais, a town of 72,000 people that has long a beacon for British day-trippers hunting for a bargain, began to slump early last year when thousands of migrants converged on France’s northern shores, bent on reaching Britain. In June, the Brexit vote in Britain, which was followed by a slump in the value of sterling, also dented business morale.
Real estate demand has soured, especially among investors, according to Evelyne Duriez, an estate agent in the high street. Media accounts of the crisis have “disfigured Calais’ image” and scared off investors, Duriez said, while noting that the property market has remained relatively stable for transactions between locals. — AFP