Yesterday morning (Friday 12 February) the prefect of the Calais region Fabienne Buccio announced the next wave of mass eviction of the Calais “jungle” camp, giving seven days warning to the 2000 people who will be cleared from the Southern part of the site. The eviction will then take place within three weeks. (See French media article here with full details.)
She also announced that the whole jungle will be cleared “by the summer”. The self-organised refugee shantytown will no longer be tolerated by the state, the area will be “made clean”. The school, church and mosques will be allowed to stay “for a certain time”, before also being bulldozed.
Its inhabitants, according to the prefect, have two choices. They can accept places in the official “container camp” built on part of the jungle site, tightly controlled with fences and palmprint scanners by the authorities and their charity collaborator La Vie Active. Or they can claim asylum in France and be dispersed to other prison-like hostels around the country. Those who refuse these options will face arrest and detention (although deportation is in fact unlikely for most, as the French courts have repeatedly refused to enforce expulsions to war zones.)
The state’s strategy is now fairly clear. The jungle is home to several thousand angry and desperate people, many of them survivors of wars and extreme repression. Even with well over a thousand cops in place, the state doesn’t want a head-on confrontation that could lead to serious bloodshed. So evictions take place in phased stages, beginning with the first clearance of a “no mans land” buffer zone one month ago. Each time those under threat are given a “choice” to avoid more open violence. And each time the “humanitarians” and charity workers are sent to help calm the situation, persuade people that there is no alternative, and eventually help them pack up their belongings.
A big hole in the state’s strategy is that there are far more people in the jungle than can fit in the new concentration camp, even if everyone agreed. And more will arrive. So the “problem” will not be all cleaned away by the summer. The jungle may be destroyed, but the struggle in Calais will go on in new forms. Probably there will be new camps and shelters, as there have been for years, but smaller, more precarious and under constant attack. The misery and deaths will go on.
The question now is: will the jungle go quietly? Or will people make a stand for this place of mud and squalor, but also of life, self-organisation and solidarity? And if the dispossessed of the jungle stand and fight, will we stand with them?
No amount of petitions or donated shoes will make the murder and misery go away. Even the tiniest spaces of life and freedom need to be fought for. The jungle is not strong enough to take on the full might of the French state alone. The only chance is if we can start to organise and fight in solidarity. To help defend self-organised zones like the jungle, and at the same time to go on the offensive against governments and their collaborators in Calais, Paris, London and everywhere.
NB: In London tomorrow (Sunday 14 February), a “Love not Razorwire” protest demo has beencalled at the French Embassy at 12 Noon. See here for details (fakebook page).