The Demolition of the Calais ‘Jungle’

On Monday, October 24th, the refugee camp known as “The Jungle” in the port town of Calais, France was dismantled by workers and riot police.

 

Since 2002, the camp has steadily grown in size, with its population swelling in the past two years due to the European refugee and migrant crisis. As of early October 2016, there were approximately 6,000 people – including over 1,000 unaccompanied children – living in the camp. Many were fleeing conflict and violence in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Eritrea, and other countries.

Doctors of the World has steadfastly opposed the demolition of the camp, arguing that thousands of people would be left without a support network and vulnerable to disease and abuse. Our teams have been working in Calais since 2003, providing essential medical care, sexual and reproductive care (SRH) and psychosocial support services. Inside the Jungle we operated a health clinic and our mobile units were present throughout the camp. In addition, our teams often initiated emergency responses – largely as a result of the conditions in the camp – such as providing clean water, sleeping bags and hygiene kits.

Pippa Hatton of our UK team, speaking to the IBT, sums up the situation, “We were working there long before this camp was established. We have been through demolitions and evacuations, and people ended up living in squalid squats and woodland, often without running water.” Dismantling the camp also does not provide a solution for those desperate to reach relatives in the UK, many of whom would simply relocate to other port towns across France.

Those most at-risk during and post-demolition are unaccompanied children and minors. While the French government declared the camp “empty” and the local representative for Calais, Fabienne Buccio, called the dismantling a “mission accomplished”, many children were left without anywhere to go and nowhere to sleep. In an article by The Guardian, our spokesperson reports that, “Everything has been destroyed, so we are very worried about the unaccompanied minors. Where they will sleep tonight is a massive concern.”

Despite the protests of Doctors of the World and many other NGOs, the French government transported residents out of the camp by bus. According to government authorities nearly 5,600 people have been moved to reception centers in other areas of France, though it is estimated that at least 100 unaccompanied children remain. Many residents of the French towns receiving refugees and migrants have ardently opposed the relocation plan – prompting fears for the safety and wellbeing of those relocated.