Mary Jones, Founder, "Jungle Books"
|Music performances at Jungle Books Library, Calais Jungle camp|
(Photo: Jungle Books)
|Jungle Books Childrens' Space (Photo: Jungle Books)|
What was also remarkable was that these projects were in the most part built by ordinary people - not large NGO's, international charities, or funded organisations (because they are not allowed to operate in Calais by the French Government) - but by people who had come together via Facebook, and self-organised with incredible speed.
As well as Jungle Books, many other grassroots projects grew up and flourished in the camp; two schools, two churches (one of which featured on Songs of Praise), two mosques, the Good Chance Theatre where the Globe performed Hamlet last month, as well as the Women's and Children's Centre, a legal advice centre, and a new youth centre where the hundreds of children between 12 and 18 could go for help, clothes and emotional support. Three kitchens served up to 2,000 meals a day. A measles outbreak was contained by a vaccination centre.
|St Michael's Church, Calais Jungle camp|
In this way, a whole community was created by refugees and volunteers working together, whether it was building, performing, or planning. Not only volunteer projects, but refugee-run projects sprang up - over 70 restaurants, shops and cafes were built and run by refugees. Some refugees formed new lives in the camp - a caravan was found for a refugee nurse who currently lives in the Jungle giving medical care, whilst other refugees work with the volunteers solely for the benefit of those living in the camp. Art projects are given by visiting volunteers - a participatory photography project, called Welcome to Our Jungle, gave cameras to those living in camp to document their daily experiences and provide a counter-narrative to the refugee crisis. Though nobody disputed that the Jungle could be volatile and dangerous at times, voluntary projects such as these provide an essential place for people to go, to connect, to educate themselves and most importantly to feel human again.
|The "Good Chance" Theatre, Calais Jungle|
|Area in red marked for destruction, The "container camp" |
can be seen as the white square middle right
However, the new containers only contain places for a fraction of the inhabitants of the camp (1500 places for up to 7,000 inhabitants), and the southern zone contains these very projects that so many inhabitants rely on. These will now be bulldozed and there appear to be no plans to replace them - no kitchens or community spaces, libraries, religious centres or schools which are so important for communal living. Not only that, but many of the most vulnerable - unaccompanied children and teenagers - will not be rehoused in the container camp but instead re-distributed around the country, far from the projects which have been providing help and advice, much-needed routine and structure, and the volunteers which have befriended and supported them.
|A church in the Calais Jungle is bulldozed|
(Photo Credit: Help Refugees)
Nobody is insisting that people remain living in tents in freezing mud. But at the same time, the refugee problem cannot be solved by treating people as statistics. The wholesale destruction and relocation of an arbitrary number of people does not take account of their individual circumstances. The inhabitants of Calais did not arrive all in one go marching in lockstep with the same wishes, rights, or legal entitlements. They are from many different countries and backgrounds. Many of them have family in England, and therefore a valid right under existing EU asylum policy. In January 2016 a landmark case was won by Citizens UK which held that Britain should allow in three Syrian minors and one dependent adult from the camp with relatives in the UK while their cases were examined instead of staying in a icy swamp.
This Dublin III reunification policy allows certain nuclear family members to travel to live with relatives in the UK, but in the muddy dirty conditions of the camp, accessing legal advice and confusing online forms is impossible (though the camp was given wifi by grassroots groups and is accessible via Jungle Books).
|An Afghani family living in the Calais camp |
(Photo credit: Welcome To Our Jungle)
What can I do?
Watch and share this video about the projects of hope created in the Jungle featuring refugees and volunteers alike, called The Lotus Flower.
Sign this petition to French ministers about the destruction of projects of hope in Calais
Email your MEP on this link (make sure it's the European Parliament not your UK MP - they have no power to intervene on this issue) - Calais Action has published an open letter that you can cannibalise although the website does not accept bulk mailouts, there's a button where you can search and mail your MEPs simultaneously.