By Daniel Velasquez, Global Studies, La Sierra University
The only people who have the right to declare when the mission for the refugees is accomplished are the refugees themselves,
and until comes the time that they do,
there will always be another “jungle.”
The story of the Calais refugee camp known as “The Jungle” was declared over on October 26, of 2016 by a French government official. The smoke from the burning shelters still hung in the air, as the Prefect announced the mission had been accomplished. Groups of refugees still wandered around the area listlessly longing for a way across to the U.K. Large groups of refugees were being bused to different camps still without the security of a permanent home, and hundreds of unaccompanied minors had fled the area after the capacity to register the children had been over run, but still according to the Prefect the mission had been accomplished.
The jungle first developed from the wreckage of a similar mission that had been proclaimed accomplished which had taken place almost fifteen years before the destruction of the jungle. When the Sangatte Reception Facility was closed by the then Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy, a solution to the issue of refugees in the Calais area was thought to have been found, but the jungle camp that once was thought to have over 8,000 people living in it begs to differ.
A camp, that developed into a sort of mini-city with free wifi, a book store, a theater, and art gallery, emerged from the forests surrounding the port city. People from Eritrea, Somalia, and Syria and other countries moved into the area at steady rates in the hopes of somehow crossing the channel that connected the continent of Europe to the sought after land of the UK. The hopes of the people trying to cross were met with tight security and dangerous conditions. Stuck without the option of returning to where they came from, the refugees made their homes amongst shipping containers provided by the French government. In unsanitary and dangerous conditions, different races, ethnicities, and religions waited for some door to open giving a chance at a new life.
For the majority this chance never came, instead came the destruction of the shelters that offered them the small bit of normality that had escaped their lives. First, the southern part of the camp and later the entirety of the jungle was demolished by workers, machinery, and flames. The area now stands guarded as not not let the jungle again be claimed by those hoping to use Calais as a jumping off point from the European continent. Yet still they come.
The city is once again seeing a steady increase in refugees, including hundreds of unaccompanied minors, that now have no shelter and wander the central part of the city in the bitter winter cold. The mayor recently banned NGOs from distributing food. Requests for the construction of some type of temporary respite have been denied. Just as in the closure of Sangatte no solution has been found, no mission truly accomplished, just a temporary shifting. Just another leg on the journey to a new life that these people so desperately need and crave. The government official who claimed that the mission had been accomplished did not have the authority to do so. Such proclamations, while politically convenient, have little meaning when it comes to whether or not viable solutions for refugees have emerged. The only people who have the right to declare when the mission for the refugees is accomplished are the refugees themselves, and until comes the time that they do, there will always be another “jungle.”