An infamous refugee camp in Calais, northern France, is set to be dismantled. Unceremoniously dubbed the “Jungle” camp, it served as the temporary home for thousands of migrants and refugees from countries in Africa and Asia, including war zones in Syria and Afghanistan, according to The Huffington Post. Armed forces began clearing out the camp on Monday, October 24.
While conditions in the camp in some circumstances were squalid and unsafe, the demolition still leaves some 10,000 people uncertain about their future and upended yet again, forced to move on. They are being resettled in “welcome centers” across France, but many don’t know where they will end up, according to The Washington Post. The end goal for many was in fact to cross the British Channel and find asylum in Britain. Calais’s location was a good spot for many to try their luck in reaching the other country’s shore, says The Huffington Post.
However, many groups, such as the United Nations refugee agency, support the French government’s shut-down of the camp. A representative of this agency called conditions there “deplorable,” “unacceptable,” and “abysmal,” as The Huffington Post reports.
France has been incredibly friendly to refugees in comparison with many other countries, but a majority of the displaced people believes that Britain has better job opportunities, and more have family or friends living there already. Not to mention, many of them already speak some English but little or no French, so they believe they will fare better in the English-speaking country, which includes finding work and going to school.
The French government has welcomed refugees and is making a lot of effort with their “welcome centers,” but French citizens have had mixed reactions at best to the relocation of the Calais camp’s migrants. According to NPR, many communities have banded together in demonstrations protesting the refugees’ movement to camps outside of their own residences. One such community member, Laura Chretien from the town of Louveciennes, explained that they are not against the refugees themselves, but rather the prospect of their town becoming “the new Calais.” The community was well-aware of the conditions in the “Jungle” and regarded it with something like disgust. As NPR reports, she commented, “…we’ve seen that there was no dignity for the people and there were lots of problem of security.”
In contrast to residents like Chretien, there are community members like Florence Heskia who are part of an association called “Fraternity with Refugees.” Its members are welcoming to the displaced, offering them shelter, blankets, and even lessons in speaking French.
Meanwhile, according to The Washington Post, refugees from the Calais camp had no idea where they might end up in France as late as a few days before the camp closed. This uncertainty heightened anxiety, especially for those whose destination has always been Britain. Those refugees who were unable to catch a bus to one of the welcome centers may end up at illegal refugee camps that dot the landscape near Calais, says The Huffington Post, which have no running water, toilets, or showers.