Migrant Crisis at the Calais Jungle

French officials and refugees from the Calais Jungle have clashed after a judicial order greenlighted the dismantling of the south area of the camp. Home to an estimate that fluctuates between 3,500 (according to Calais officials) and 5,497 (according to Help Refugees) migrants from Syria, Afghanistan, Africa, and Pakistan, among others, that await for political asylum in the United Kingdom, the Calais Jungle, as it has been nicknamed, has existed for years as a makeshift camp near the Calais port in France. The decision follows after a period of growing tensions between the French locals and the growing community of migrants. This decision also follows concerns about the living conditions in the camp.

Described by the authorities as a “humanitarian operation,” French officials broke into the southern area of the camp on February 29 and proceeded to bulldoze and set ablaze several homes and structures, leaving intact only schools and places of worship. It has been estimated that 800 to 3,455 people are facing immediate eviction after this decision. The official deadline for relocation expired this past Tuesday, March 1st. Due to the general reluctance of over a thousand migrants to relocate before the appointed deadline, clashes have erupted between the two groups, which prompted French officials to declare their willingness to use force in face of any opposition throughout this process.

Part of an aggressive campaign from the French government to gain control over their migrant crisis, the current goal is to have no more than 2,000 migrants living in Calais. This move from the French government leaves refugees with only three options: move to a northern sector of the camp where converted containers have been erected by the government; relocate to similar accommodations in other camps across France; or claim asylum from the French government. The first two options have been discarded by many migrants because of their inability to move and lack of resources. However, the most prevalent argument against any of those options is that taking any of them would place them even farther away from the British border and access to asylum within those borders, which is the goal of many of the migrants currently living on the Calais Jungle.

The dismantling of this camp, and the development of new camps with better living conditions along the border, has also been used as a bargaining chip in the ongoing discussion about Britain leaving the European Union. The French-British Le Touquet Accord of 2003 allowed Britain to maintain enclaves in France of refugees awaiting entrance into British soil in exchange for millions of euros. Were Britain to effectively leave the European Union, a disruption in immigration processes would have serious effects in border control and the economy of both nations.

For more information:

El País – http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2016/02/29/actualidad/1456751566_297707.html (Spanish)

El País – http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2016/03/03/actualidad/1456995829_474590.html?rel=cx_articulo – cxrecs_s (Spanish)

BBC – http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35693882

Daily Mail – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3468131/Calais-jungle-camp-1-000-migrants-lived-years-cleared-French-authorities-dismantle-encampment-relocate-migrants-purpose-built-accommodation.html

BBC – http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-35675223

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