French Migrant Camps are a UK Disgrace

This week I visited the Calais migrant camp known as the Jungle. I travelled with my friend, the writer, Tom Blass. Our aim was to get in and see what was what. What we found astonished and moved us.

All around we could see diggers and bulldozers hard at work destroying the pathetic homes of desperate people.

The CRS (French riot police famous for brutality) have effectively locked the camp down and threatened us with arrest (and worse) if we were caught in there. The CRS do not want people to see the destruction going on inside the camp. This is a disgrace because whatever you think of the migrant situation you cannot treat people in this way. It is snowing and hailing and there are children and women and men who have no shelter.

Naturally we in the UK decry the way the French are treating these people. But here’s the kicker – the ‘Jungle’ is effectively a BRITISH camp. Whilst the Calais camp and its ‘sister’ camp at Grande Synthe in Dunkirk are on French soil they are there because of an agreement between the French, Belgian and UK governments called the Le Touquet agreement of 2003 which provides for ‘Juxtaposed Controls’. This means bilateral immigration control allowing for the posting of border checks in each other’s country. So Britain can check passports in France and vice versa (how many migrants are trying to get into France?).

Effectively, the UK government under Tony Blair outsourced our migrant problem to the French and this has created the migrant camps dotted along the north shore of France.

Do you think the British people would allow the conditions that permeate the Calais camp to exist on UK soil? I don’t think so. But we are ok with it so long as the ‘Bloody French’ look like they are at fault.

This is the point – don’t think that this is simply a matter of the French being beastly to desperate people. This is the British allowing the French to do our dirty work. For instance Brexiter’s note the fact of  ‘UK funding and material support’ for the camps as a reason why we have nothing to fear from exiting the EU and subsequent possible shredding of the Le Touquet agreement by the French.

Here are some pictures from an  area within the camp that is being ‘cleared’. Any structures still standing will be gone by Monday 14th March – that includes a language school, a playground, a computer room and a stage. The authorities allow a ‘stay of execution’ for so called ‘community centres’ but the cabins and tents that people live in are destroyed with an hour’s notice. Hence the hastily abandoned possessions you can see in the photographs.

If you feel like it please give to one of the agencies associated with the migrant camps. Care for Calais and Help Refugees spring to mind. And please let your MP know that treatment of migrants on our behalf cannot be outsourced to the French to execute so brutally.

Tom and I are planning to return in the coming weeks to see how things change for the camp and its people. We’ll let you know what we find.

Thanks, Alex
10/3/16 London

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CRS officers with guns, batons and shields climb the wall to aid demolition of the Calais migrant camp.
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A ‘Jungle kitchen’, Calais migrant camp.
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The scene a day after after habitation demolition, Calais migrant camp.
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Discarded items following demolition, Calais migrant camp.
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Cans of food rescued from demolition fire, Calais migrant camp.
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Detritus, Calais migrant camp.
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Abandoned kitchen pans, Calais migrant camp.
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A sign to protect the space from demolition, Calais migrant camp
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South west corner of Calais migrant camp
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Abandoned shoes, Calais migrant camp
'Caldo' a Spanish volunteer working with children who said, 'it [the clearances] makes me feel ashamed to be a European'.
‘Caldo’ a Spanish volunteer working with children who said, ‘it [the clearances] makes me feel ashamed to be a European’.
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Teaching French to refugees, Calais migrant camp.
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Soon to be demolished computer room, Calais migrant camp.
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CRS offices entering Calais migrant camp.
Entrance to 'school' empty of children and about to be destroyed.
Entrance to ‘school’ empty of children and about to be destroyed, Calais migrant camp.
Lorries cart away the destroyed cabins and camp materials, Calais migrant camp.
Lorries cart away the destroyed cabins and camp materials, Calais migrant camp.
A CRS office urinates despite 'Private Property' sign, near Calais migrant camp.
A CRS office urinates despite ‘Private Property’ sign, near Calais migrant camp.

8 thoughts on “French Migrant Camps are a UK Disgrace”

  1. Absolutely right about the fact that the UK is complicit in this spectacle. At a governmental level our main contribution to ‘solving’ this problem has been to provide higher fences for the Eurotunnel site. Not exactly our finest hour!

  2. The law allowing migrants with relatives in the UK to enter UK has been blatantly ignored since the very beginning. This has resulted in God knows how many have had to endure the utter soul-destroying misery and wretchedness of “the Jungle”. Especially the children. How does the UK Government get away with flouting its own laws? So many people, yes people, could have been living here ages ago. And we expect gratitude from the very people we have condemned to a life of Hell, if they are let into the UK. This is allegedly a Christian country. What would Jesus have done? Has David Cameron got a slick answer for that? OK, I know we can’t take every single applican’t, but these poor people have just been left to rot in their Camp. They might go away, if we just leave them there. If anyone ever thought that seriously, then they have had a very cushy life and have never really suffered or they would know that the one thing they will not do is give up. They can’t. It’s more or less the same tragedy everywhere. And Turkey wants to profit from this. As far as I know it is against international law to send refugees to a country where there exists conflict. Alex, I don’t know how you and Tom had the courage to go there. Don’t think I would. It would break my heart.

    1. Helen, thanks for your comment. It is heartbreaking. I think it’s a moment in history – nothing like it since ww2. There isn’t a simple answer because, whatever you do, someone has to suffer but it seems horrific that this could happen in a civilised country.

  3. I agree with all the previous comments. The UK government refuses to accept any reponsibility for these desperate people seeking refuge.
    When you see images of unaccopanied children, as a parent I feel sickened that we as a country are turning a blind eye and hoping that someone else will solve this issue. Also I find it disgusting that this government iis seeking to gain political capital from this issue.
    My wife (who is French speaking) is travelling to the ‘Jungle’ next week to try and help in some way. This issue will not disappear.

  4. Thanks Martyn and great to hear Joelle is going to help out. As I understand it the camp has come a long way in the last six months but the police/state are destroying it without offering a viable alternative… We all know that there is no easy answer to the problems posed by immigration on this scale but treating people like this is not excusable in any circumstances.

  5. Thank you for the photographs and inside information Alex. We gave a lift to Ashford to a Finnish photo journalist at Calais port after he was photographing the jungle in early March. He could hardly speak. “No one deserves to be treated like this”, he kept repeating. A whole family (who had lost everthing), literally walked for two months from the Lebanon to seek refuge in England and after all their efforts they receive this inhuman and brutal treatment for their bravery and plight. One feels so very helpless .. He said the camp is full of lawyers and helpers yet they too are ineffectual against our brutual ‘democracy’? Lucia Stuart

    1. Thank you for you comment, Lucia. I completely agree. No matter what one thinks of immigration we should not allow people to be treated like animals. There is no simple answer to this question but I think if more people could see the squalor of the camps they’d be as shocked as the photographer you gave a lift to. Alex

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