The Closing of the Jungle

“The Jungle is finished,” affirmed a Sudanese migrant who spent the past two years living in the makeshift refugee camp in Calais, dubbed “the Jungle.” Since the birth of the camp, citizens in Calais have voiced their concerns regarding the camp to the French government. Calais citizens claimed to be in a state of constant stress given the increase in migrants coming from war-torn countries that have arrived to the port city attempting to cross the Eurotunnel hoping to make their way into the United Kingdom (UK). On October 25, 2016, French authorities began to clear out the camp which currently housed over 8,300 migrants.

The evacuation plan presented by the French authorities entailed categorizing all of those in the camp into four main groups: (1) families, (2) single men, (3) unaccompanied minors, and (4) vulnerable people. Once separated into the four categories, the unaccompanied minors were to remain in the camp in shipping containers where their claims for asylum would be assessed. Some of the minors have successfully made their way into the UK under a fast track process. This process allows for minors to enter the UK if they have family members already living there and are willing to take care of them. Given the current crisis, the UK has relaxed the fast track process to also include some minors who do not have family members. The remaining three groups were placed on buses destined to take them to different parts of France in order to begin their requests for asylum. A large number of migrants have expressed their concerns in arriving to a new town because they fear that they will not be welcomed into the small villages that surround Calais and have thus resisted boarding the buses.

While French authorities expected to complete the process by the end of last week, even going as far as declaring the closing of the camp as a success three days after the clearing out process began, eyewitness accounts and reports from the charities that have been assisting the French authorities have described a chaotic picture. Upon the announcement of the camps closing, a string of sporadic fires began throughout the camp. It was unclear if the fires were started by the migrants themselves or by the French authorities, who maintained that the burning of the camp site is a migrant tradition.

Moreover, the demolition of the camp has uncovered a plethora of underlying issues and questions pertaining to the refugee crisis in Europe. The most prevalent question comes down to attempting to understand how all of the migrants managed to arrive to the northern port city of Calais given that the majority first entered Europe via Greece and Italy, yet they did not begin their asylum application process in the aforementioned countries. The situation points towards a fundamental flaw in Europe’s immigration system and the failure of the third iteration of the Dublin III Regulation which follows the Geneva Convention and the EU Qualification Directives. As per the Dublin Agreement, all European Union Members states have a duty to finger print, process and work out asylum claims upon the migrants’ arrival.

The refugee crisis in Europe is far from over. As a Médecins Sans Frontier member described, “they [the migrants] thought that when they arrived to Europe, they would find heaven, but they hit a wall here.” Minors still remain in the shipping containers over and a significant number of migrants have refused to leave the Jungle. Even if French authorities claim the camp is officially closed, it cannot be forgotten that the Jungle is the sequel to the Sangatte refugee camp which began in 1999 and was shut down in 2002 by then Minister of the Interior, Nicolas Sarkozy. The third installment of this camp may materialize in the upcoming weeks.




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