As French Government Threatens to Destroy Camp, Refugees Defiant
"I'm not going to move," said one resident of the Calais camp
Migrants and refugees are vowing to peacefully defy the French government's imminent plans to destroy the makeshift homes of up to 2,000 people living in the Calais camp known as the "Jungle."
The government has given residents just days to leave before roughly a third of the camp, located in northern France, is bulldozed. The initial deadline of Thursday was moved to Monday, but some groups argue that residents are already facing displacement—through intimidation and pressure.
The Calais camp houses roughly 5,000 people who have fled war, violence, and poverty in countries including Sudan, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Syria, Iran, Iraq—and then survived dangerous voyages by land and sea. Residents are hoping for refuge and sanctuary, with some seeking to reach the United Kingdom.
The impending destruction is slated to displace a significant proportion of residents. Some are now pledging to resist their forcible removal.
"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," residents declared in a statement released on Monday night. "We have decided to remain where we are and will peacefully resist the government's plans to destroy our homes."
"We plead with the French authorities and the international communities that you understand our situation," the statement continued.
Authorities want those displaced to move to other parts of the camp, or a new government facility—claiming that the space offers better accommodations.
But the grassroots campaign Calais Migrant Solidarity had a different take. "They veil their threats of eviction with the sweetness of compassion, they begin by offering limited sleeping space in a camp designed to trap people and rob them of their freedom," the organization said on Thursday.
And indeed, reports are emerging that many refugees fear the new government facility, which they say resembles a prison.
The impending mass eviction comes amid mounting distrust of police, who have beaten, tear gassed, and evicted camp residents in the past.
Many expressed outrage to reporters. An unnamed woman from Eritrea told Vice News that there is "no humanity" in France.
Afghan refugee Khanzaman, who runs a restaurant at the camp, told the outlet, "Everybody has to move. Police have already [said that] but I'm not going to move."
Meanwhile, Calais residents—and the volunteers supporting them—have faced recent attacks from fascist groups.
The horrific circumstances, social justice campaigners argue, underscore the inhumane conditions that refugees face across the continent. Clare Moseley, founder of U.K.-based charity group Care 4 Calais, recently told Al Jazeera: "Someone needs to think about a real solution, not just for these refugees, but for all of the refugees stuck across Europe."