As French and British governments keep on claiming the other is responsible for the people living in the Calais refugee camp known as the Jungle, life in the camp is becoming more and more organised.
Many of the refugees in the Jungle have been there for months and the camp has begun to take on many of the characteristics of a small town, with its shops, cafes, restaurants and even a club.
A political scene is also emerging. Weekly meetings now take place between camp ‘elders’, who each represent a community inside the camp.
They discuss any issue that each community might be experiencing and also voice any problems that arise in order to avoid conflict.
Tom Radcliffe, who has been volunteering in the Calais for months, explained that he had seen the camp really develop — with refugees getting more and more organised and establishing a real structure to their daily lives.
He also stressed the importance that volunteers and associations discuss with residents how they could help, rather than deciding for them what needs to be. “It’s all about human dignity,” he said.
The restaurants, shops, and cafes are all run by refugees from different nationalities. The currency used in the camp is the euro although exchanging goods also commonly takes place.
Shopkeepers get their merchandise from local French supermarkets. They pay for the merchandise with money they had saved up back home. Many of them also have family in Britain that can send them money via Western Union.
Most of them sell drinks, and foods such as biscuits, usually some vegetables, rice, pasta, oil, and condiments. Other shops also sell small electronic objects such as headphones, wireless phone chargers, batteries, and sim cards. Tobacco is also sold in most shops.
Many restaurants also line the streets inside the camp, most of them have their name painted in bright colours on the front as well as messages welcoming customers. Many shops also double as restaurants and vice versa.
Most of the restaurants and cafes in the camp do no have chairs and tables. In some, patrons have to take their shoes off before entering and sit on an elevated platform, in other venues, diners sit on wide benches that line the walls.
The refugees are also now running a library along with volunteers. The Jungle Books Library offers a selection of reading material and English and French lessons are available along with free WiFi.
“It has turned into a small town and now it is going to be destroyed,” Radcliffe told Business Insider when we visited the camp, referring to the French authorities’ recent bulldozing parts of the area in an attempt to get rid of the camp and force the refugees to move into old shipping containers.