Earlier this week, French authorities announced they would destroy part of the refugee camp in Calais known as the “Jungle.” The asylum seekers living there have until Monday to gather their belongings and leave the area.
The part of the camp the government seeks to destroy is close to the motorway. The authorities want to clear that area and level it to make it easier to prevent asylum seekers from trying to climb into trucks and buses every time a traffic jam occurs on that stretch of the road.
Clare Moseley, founder of the volunteer organisation Care4Calais, which helps people in the Jungle, estimates that the area the police seeks to clear represents about 20 per cent of the camp. The area consists mostly of homes, as opposed to other parts of the camp where small businesses and communal areas such as libraries have developed.
Initially the French government only gave the asylum seekers three days to collect their belongings and tents before coming in with the bulldozers, but on Wednesday they extended the deadline to Monday.
Residents of the camp issued a statement saying they would not leave the area. “We, the united people of the Jungle, Calais, respectfully decline the demands of the French government with regards to reducing the size of the jungle. We have decided to remain where we are and will peacefully resist the government’s plans to destroy our homes.”
Although some people are still refusing to move, Moseley told Business Insider that the situation was changing. “As more and more people are moving, others are also becoming more inclined to do so.”
Volunteers have been working with asylum seekers to move the tents and belongings away from the area that will be destroyed, but finding new place for the people living in the area near the motorway is proving difficult as most of the space is already taken up.
Moseley said the biggest problem was the lack of communication overall in the camp. “People are worried, people are scared because they don’t know what is going to happen. Nothing is certain.” All announcements are made orally and are spread by word of mouth, there are no official communication channels.
The refugees are also worried because they have heard rumours that the French government is trying to get rid of the camp completely, which makes them wonder whether this is merely the first stage of a greater destruction.
Some refugees are also resisting moving into the new accommodation French authorities installed, which consists of old shipping containers. Around 12 people can sleep in each container. But there is no private area or place for the asylum seekers to store their belongings, which leads many of them to prefer their tents rather than a place without privacy.
The new accommodation is also surrounded by a security perimeter and therefore requires the asylum seekers living there to be registered, which causes many to think they will then be forced to apply for asylum in France and won’t be able to try and continue their journey to the UK.
Moseley said that the number of new people arriving in Calais had significantly slowed down over the last few weeks because of the bad weather. But she also thinks it is because word is getting out that it is extremely difficult to cross to the UK from there. “People are realising there’s very little hope here,” Moseley said. They are still expecting numbers to start going back up in March, when the weather starts improving again.
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