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.