Migrants taking refuge in “the Jungle,” an infamous camp in Calais, will be uprooted again.
Despite protests from Jungle residents and their advocates, a French judge has upheld a decision to raze the southern half of the camp. Police are tracing the new boundaries in pink spray paint, and the bulldozers will arrive soon. The 17-acre portion of the camp has 3,455 residents, according to humanitarian group Help Refugees. Those who refuse to leave on their own will face forcible eviction.
French authorities claim that demolishing the camp is a humanitarian action. Squalid living conditions and frequent violence make the Jungle a miserable place to live. Converted shipping containers, heated and stocked with beds and blankets, have been installed in the northern half of the camp as alternative shelters.
Settlers are also encouraged to seek homes in France through any of the country’s immigrant processing centers. Either option, however, requires fingerprint registration, which many migrants fear would bar them from their desired destinations (especially the U.K.). The French embassy issued a statement defending its actions:
“Everyone agrees that life conditions in the ‘Jungle’ are not ideal. The French authorities are deploying huge efforts to cater for the migrants. Our objective is that everyone should be housed in humane conditions.”
In other words, “It’s for their own good.”
The thousands of people living there don’t agree. The Jungle, while filthy and dangerous, has become a sort of home. Residents have set up shops, restaurants, churches, mosques, and a school amidst the sea of tents. Moving to the shipping containers would disrupt their social ties. Sultana, a 12-year-old girl who fled Kabul with her mother, told Newsweek, “The Jungle is not a very nice home, but it is something like a home. It even feels good sometimes.” French authorities settled the migrants there in April 2015, as a temporary camp where they would be “tolerated.” As politicians delayed, the camp sprawled and residents made of it what they could. Taking away their sliver of stability now is unjust and inhumane.
People talk about helping refugees (for their own national security as much as any humanitarian concern), but when it comes down to it few are willing to make any sacrifice for them. Prejudice breeds fear, and self-interest trumps compassion; people don’t want bedraggled, destitute foreigners – especially Muslim ones – settling anywhere near them.
It’s time for people of all nations, both in Europe and here in the U.S., to give up our complacent indifference. Instead of seeing an abstract “refugee problem,” we need to look into the faces of our fellow human beings. European countries must take cooperative action to open borders, expedite processing, and ease migrants’ transition into their new homes.
Banner Image Credit: Reuters