Return to Calais

“When I am dead and opened, you shall find `Calais‘ lying in my heart.” – Queen Ann

I’m rushing to Calais on the A26. A bad choice of truck stop cost me an hour. A text message from a friend: “Quite bad. The Pashtun Jungle was evicted. Quite messy. See you soon.”

My truck driver tells me he lives in Calais. I try to enquire what it’s like there. “You know about the migrant camps? Les Sans Papiers?”

He looks at me. “You are No Border?”

“Ummm…”

Ten minutes later an announcement comes over the radio. I hear Besson, the French immigration minister, mentioned and ask for a translation. They cleared the migrant Jungle this morning. 250 were arrested, taken to Coquelles. 50 other people were there to support them. The mosque was not demolished, everything else was, with bulldozers.

I arrive at the flat to find about twenty sleep-deprived activists. A friend gives me all the gory details. They all stayed in the Pashtun Jungle overnight and were there when the police raided. Hundreds of cops and hundreds of journalists snapping away. Many of the Jungle inhabitants had already fled, those remaining were mostly children and teenagers, all very afraid and many screaming or crying. My friend described the bizarre situation of journalists posing the children for photos with the banners they had made, choreographing their arrest.

By the end of a lengthy meeting we were already hearing reports of people being released back to Calais, now with nowhere to go. We ask where they will go and they say back to the Jungle to remake their house. Where else can they go? There is nowhere else.

There are enough activists now to go two to each Jungle and stay the night. We don’t know where the police will strike next and Besson has said he wants Calais free of migrants by Friday. Pi_ arrives late. He is a friend of mine from the Calais No Borders Camp and someone I was looking for in Gent. Nice surprise!  He and I go to the Sudanese Jungle for the night and I finally get to try out  my new tent, tatted for me by a friend from Glastonbury Festival it sleeps two comfortably and weighs only  2kg.

Spirits are low in the Sudanese camp, apart from my ever-joking, ever-smiling friend, who I will refer to as ‘Yessman’. Anything you say to him is met with a big smile, clenched fists and an enthusiastic “yessss!” He says if police come he will invite them in for tea. The others are not so jovial. One man asks where he is supposed to go. “In Sudan I have problem, here I have problem. Where I go?” I tell him I’m sorry, I don’t know either. He mimes the action of a noose around his neck. It’s a heartbreaking situation.

The only police we see are in our dreams. In mine I run to the tent where the men are staying and bash on the sides shouting “Police! Run!” In Pi_’s, he makes some kind of low howling animal cry, then wonders if that will be a clear enough signal to the migrants that the police are there.

I will see out the week here, to see if Besson tries to carry out his threat. Planning to leave Friday.

2 thoughts on “Return to Calais

  1. Heard about the Jungle-clearing on BBC news over the last few days. Horrified by their coverage, made me very angry! Was wondering if you’d be there and what was really going on. At the very least reading this has made me lessed stressed out about moving house tomorrow – puts it in perspective a bit! At least I don’t have to rebuild mine out of wooden pallets… All the best.

  2. Hi Jo … how’s the midgies and asthma?

    And what do you mean ‘even my mum knew’ about the clearing of The Jungle? Ha! … I’m following your every move and alerted you straight away the minute it was first mentioned on the news cause I knew you would want to know. And I watched the ‘demolition’ … as you have already heard and know firsthand from people who were there at the time … it really was awful … no-one in authority seems to give a damn, treating them just as if they were clearing rubbish off a street. Yes, I was angry, still am … They seem to think that ‘the clearing’ will get rid of the problem .. but it’s solving nothing, only creating more havoc than there was already with no thought or consideration or compassion never mind about listening to them as individual PEOPLE … desperate people who don’t even have the basic needs to survive.

    Good on you for going back to support and help. I was really proud to hear that … but what will it mean for the people concerned? And where WILL they go?

    Will keep updating myself on your blog, reading your next point of adventure … it sure would make for a good book!!!

    Loving you
    Mum
    xx

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