The New Jungle: from Calais to Beyond

It is pretty hard to imagine anything as scary as the intentional clearing of The Jungle near the French port of Calais.  The dismantling by local police of improvised structures of lean-to’s, corrugated metal, stretched plastic tarpaulins, wooden structures, and improvised settlements that had sprung up near the Port of Calais for three years had housed many families of migrants from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Syria, Somalia, and Sudan; the sprawling shanty-town being disbanded was not only symbolic of the failure to address the growing refugee crisis in Europe, but created a human map of migration of considerably compelling power as a center of residence:  stuck together by duct tape and affixed in an improvised canteen, the map was symbolic of arrival beyond borders.  In a time when “place” has lost much meaning, the map affirmed The Jungle as one.  For those who had managed to travel to Calais to seek illegal entry into Great Britain to claim asylum otherwise so elusive for these victims of political persecution and economic crisis, pressed by necessity and human rights violations to leave their countries.

They had come to seek the status of refugees on the coast of northern France.  Yet as Calais settlements have provided a target for migrant-bashing and a sort of political football for the French government and Prime Minister, as migrants waiting to travel to the United Kingdom by subverting the border controls, risking their lives by clandestine travel underneath trucks or in ferries, or any transport through the crowded Eurotunnel in whatever illegal way presented itself.   Calais’ stateless settlement is created by one nation seeking to restrict entrance of foreigners, having  pushed its borderline onto the soil of a nation that also doesn’t want to offer migrants asylum, but where they have made their temporary home, even as both states restrict their movement, as both border controls and anti-migrant fascist groups both concentrate their presence into a confined space–the “Jungle,” from the Pashtun dzhangal, on the outskirts of town, to make their homes on an overbuilt border that has been increasingly defined by a visible security apparatus, designed to prevent entrance into British territory by migrants to claim asylum.  And the clearing of the encampment by French police, who moved in to erase any traces of habitation and remove migrants from the region, seems both a misguided local attempt to resolve an international problem of housing and naturalization, whose frustration has given rise to right-wing political forces in Europe and much of the world.

 

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Most migrants had arrived in Calais with hopes to find their way to the United Kingdom, hoping to gain transit across the twenty miles of ocean by illegally boarded trucks, or trains.  But the recent decision to build a concrete wall along the border to prevent its crossing, and to disband and remove the camps, seems a failure to deal with a growing migrant crisis.  If the compass rose on the cardboard hand-made map pasted on one of the social centers in the settlement camps provided a point of orientation to the world where they sought to find a place for themselves, the crowded habitations of migrants from different nations on the map suggests less of a fantasy map than the immense geographical range of migrant families who had settled in tents  on a stretch of landfill beside a highway and sandy shore, mid-way between Paris and London.  The map seems also a confirmation they had arrived in a safe community beyond national borders.

 

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The creative cartography, without borders and boundaries, and foregrounding a sinuous cartography of roads, as if a surrogate for migrants’ ongoing travels, is an imagined cartography but not at all one that is imaginary.  The hand-drawn map was affixed by duct tape in a distribution center of clothing and food in the Calais Jungle, to orient arriving migrants and their families to where they had recently arrived, and might rejoin similar linguistic groups of co-nationals, but also suggests the blurred world of migrants, who live outside of any previously recognized borders, and on a quite different map.  For while it reads at first as a fantasy map, the assemblage of global refugees gave rise not only to a common cry–“Fight the Border Everywhere!”–offered a clear sense of pride and local belonging, and a triumph over adversity that was all too real.  The map indicated sites to find hot food provided daily, water sources, health centers, and houses of worship and where migrants congregated from the Eritrea, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria or Iran.

The map drawn in marker on cardboard boxes is as improvised as the shelters of The Jungle, built of jerry-rigged tarpaulins, wooden structures, corrugated steel sheets, and bits of post-industrial detritus converted to living quarters.  But it presents a sturdy and resilient image of a world view, using recycled cartographical imagery and legends, from a compass rose to point to England and “Here be dragons” to suggest the dangers of riot police beside the motorway and tunnel to England.  The hand-drawn map has been recently interpreted as evidence of the failures of European immigration policies, depicting a “geography of imagined communities” which exposes policy shortcomings, for migrants who arrived in The Jungle, it presented a sense of place where they had arrived.  If “place” can hardly have been stable for the refugees who had taken such extensively varied itineraries to reach the coastal port town of Calais, the map confirmed their arrival at a place of common solidarity, as much as their outcast status and transient status, rather than a failure of states to process their claims to asylum.  For a group of migrants who had travelled such great lengths from so many areas, viewing the map provoked less of a  sense of dislocation than of arriving at home, if not a shared pride in local resettlement.

If  most images of The Jungle convey its improvised nature as a quite crowded sea of brightly colored tarps and corrugated metal roofs, the hand-drawn marker map shows The Jungle as a dramatically well-ordered space, concealed on a system of roads, linguistic or ethnic regions, with its own school, health center, and markets.  Located close to the Ferry Terminal and Eurotunnel.  True, The Jungle was a sort of legal limbo, whose sites of encampment near repurposed shipping containers had created a sprawling virtual microcosm of the refugee crisis.  But although it existed for years, the expansive settlements seem to have been poorly mapped.  Located just three miles from the downtown of Calais, in uncomfortable proximity to the shopping district, the presence of crowded tents in the Jungle from 2015, including toilets, electricity, and food arose as an effort to stop migration to England–but grew as its conditions attracted refugees hopeful of reaching England.  When Francois Hollande judged the settlements both “undignified” and “not acceptable“–“We cannot have such camps in France“–and promised the rapid expulsion of the settlements in September, he boasted to restore and reinstate border without any engagement of migrants’ real needs.

The Jungle is perhaps less often closely watched that poorly mapped–as it is below, by a dark superimposed grid, without a human face.  But it has been increasingly difficult to face in European politics, since it so clearly embodies the inability of Europe to deal with its refugee crisis, and the inability of finding governmental solutions to migrants’ arrival–or to accommodate the hundred migrants who recently arrived daily in the French port town, close to the border controls hoping to gain passage by ship or car.  So strong it the hope that many wish to stay nearby, refusing to abandon hopes for future transit across the twenty miles of sea to England.  A month after publicly confirming the joint French-British construction of a “Great Wall of Calais” costing $22.65 million, promised to stand at thirteen feet high of unscalable sheer concrete, the destruction of the Jungle began:  the costly project, as the dismantlement of the camps, has more to do with border politics, of course, than the plight of migrants seeking asylum–initially Iraqi Kurds, but increasing Sudanese, Eritreans, and Ethiopians and Afghanis.  Indeed, with the commitment to the new reinforced border boundary to be built in Calais, unprecedented in size, the erasure of the camps that existed of migrants were set to to be definitively cleared.

 

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The above map, designed just before authorities proposed to clear the southern half of the camp settlements in early 2016, that they described as a “humanitarian project,” or “soft demolition,” sought to defuse the growing political debates and to restrain the already growing number of migrants who had arrived at the port town seeking passage, which they hoped to limit to 2,000–even as the numbers present were already above 5,500 according to the humanitarian organization Help Refugees–the difficulty to put faces on the many people who came to crowd the densely populated tent-camps was clear in the attempts to provide some humanitarian aid, balanced with fear of become a magnet for further refugees as the size of the Jungle settlement grew.  While French police control the region and sought to prevent migrants from reaching transit by car or ship, and cleared tents and shacks from many areas, authorities opened a shelter in the camp’s northeastern region, adding 125 repurposed metal shipping containers to offer shelter for 1,5000 migrants as temporary housing atop the port’s sandy dunes.  Many migrants rejected the sparse living conditions, but the multi-ethnic camps grew, nourishing hopes of future resettlement.  Rather mapping migrants as outsiders who had only recently crossed the borders and boundaries of Europe, many of those who had arrived in The Jungle were seeking to rejoin relatives or former migrants who were already living and established in Europe.

 

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Similar encampments had appeared at Calais since 2003, and had been present since the late 1990s in some form, but the Jungle dates from early Spring, 2015, when it emerged as a destination and point of departure.  But their recent ballooning provoked the forceful dismantling of the structures, as if to erase any trace beside the repurposed shipping containers brought to house migrants.  And as it grew, it became an increasing concern of French citizens near Calais, giving rise to anti-immigrant sentiments, barbed wire electrified fences along freeways and around the entrance to the Eurotunnel, and something of a national political football and deep source of embarrassment to the government, providing evidence of their inability to process immigrants arriving from Africa and the Middle East.

The increased attraction of migrants to Calais is particularly curious as it represents the arrival of the disenfranchised communities of the world at on e of the highest concentrations of international capital.  Indeed, the increasing number of migrants attracted by the highly profitable Eurotunnel, which runs the tunnel as a concession through 2086, or of 90+ years, which already turned an unimagined annual profit of  €100.  The concessioning of the tunnel has encouraged the outsourcing of monitoring of human traffic or transport across the tunnel–imagined only as a route of moving goods–to a private security firm of 300, a non-state army that is now headed by an ex-police chief and ex-army colonel, and has assiduously worked to install an array of surveillance and security technologies to prevent the smooth business of trade across the Channel, as the profitable chunnel works to reduce its €4 billion debt, even after having had a record year in 2015 in transnational trade, and is desperate to prevent the “problem” of migrants who have been based in Calais to reduce its income from freight and the Eurostar.  The range of security forces and  companies implicated in Calais border violence–supra-national entities such as Trascor; Vinci; Logistic Solutions; Jackson’s Fencing; Mondial Protection; L3; Clearview Communications for biometrics–reveal a congestion of commerce and wealth beside the world’s destitute that creates a bizarre hybrid space on the edge of the national border.

 

 

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The forcible disbanding of the improvised community of migrants stands to create a deep mental health risks for many of its former inhabitants, already traumatized by stress and isolation having already made perilous journeys under increasingly unsure and quite precarious conditions, leaving them distrustful of further movement, and of their forced rerouting to one of 164 reception centers from which to seek asylum in France–a country that was more of a way-station on their route than a destination that was on their maps.  When almost 1300 extra police were called in to enforce its clearance, and shot tear gas canisters in the early morning into the shanty town, they acted almost as if they expected a riot that didn’t happen–but unlike the resistance to the forced evacuation of part of The Jungle in March, 2016, the current dismemberment of the camps where they lived seems a humanitarian failure.  The increased police presence around the former site of The Jungle seeks to prevent return, but the settlement will be hard to erase from the collective memory of its upwards of 10,000 inhabitants.  Whether disbanding The Jungle will offer an adequate response to the plight of migrants whose claims of asylum will be addressed once they are resettled in official refugee shelters isn’t clear.  It’s uncertain whether they will be forcibly moved to unknown areas often off of their mental maps–although as the temperature cools, this seems the most compelling immediate strategy at this point.  The hopes to see some 2,500 migrants leave in the first day after clearing The Jungle suggest high hopes.  Although French authorities offer some 7,500 open beds in temporary asylum centers, it’s hard to see in them a real solution–and it leaves migrants uncertain, skeptical and fearful of future attempts at forced repatriation.

 

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French riot police surrounded the “town” that had rarely appeared on maps of the region, before the arrival of workers to tear down and finally remove any trace of the make-shift habitations or the skeletons of tarpaulins that offered temporary tents over a week-long operation.  Fearful of the return of migrants, the destruction of what remained of their presence seemed designed to remove any trace of the habitation and its complex that had endured several years, in resourcefully improvised structures with an assortment of furniture, blankets, pillows, and bed rolls.

Departing migrants were blamed for burning of plywood lean-tos and other structures, as we were informed such destruction of places of former habitation was customary among migrants, many of the fires may have been caused by British anarchists.  Yet most migrants have left where they once accommodated themselves to live, many against their wills, as they were taken into waiting busses, labelled with plastic bands as identity bracelets, and transported by force to detention centers removed from the English frontier–more than 2,000 departing in one day.

 

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Many unaccompanied children were meanwhile moved to the remaining containers in the north of the camp, as their uncertain claims for asylum to be processed by England, even though many lacking papers had little sense of where they would go on the next leg of their voyage.  The solidarity that many residents displayed in The Jungle, despite clear health dangers and poor sanitary conditions, had provided a measure of something close to security is now left abandoned, despite the dangers of riot police who were stationed along roads outside for The Jungle.  These dangers did not, of course, slow the arrival of migrants and refugees, or a sense of clear pride in the stability of their settlement.

 

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Even as almost all departed voluntarily and peaceably, as some 1,300 unaccompanied minors  have remained in the compound to be assessed for eligibility to come to the UK, although many lack papers, to check to see if their papers are in order.  Meanwhile, as workers in hard-hats and orange jumpsuits dismantle structures where up to 10,000 lived for upwards of months, authorities are fearful of the return of the Sudanese, Eritrean, Ethiopian, and Afghan migrants, although many are ready to leave.  Multiple busloads of just under 2,000 are shipped daily to other sites.  The hope is to move migrants from the Jungle, bulldozed yet again, this time definitively, just eight months after tent-camps were partly removed last March at its southern end, so as to process their papers elsewhere on French territory–a region that few hoped to make their final destination, but on whose ground they have patiently waited, encamped, without any clear place to go, in a sort of suspended displacement and suspended transit after already perilous journeys.

 

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Although the Calais settlement a temporary residence for its inhabitants–many of whom imagined transit to England, or hoped against hope for “Brentrance“–the fears of its permanence became increasingly unwieldy for local authorities, as well as for the Calais mayor who had long urged its disbanding and been embarrassed by increasing global attention and displeasure of locals.  The official reasons for evacuating the improvised shanties were sanitary conditions and humanitarian ones.  Much animus that had been directed to migrants by locals and by French truckers who faced the attempts of migrants to sneak on their trucks or wait on highways, demonized the settlement as an illegal site.

But the decision to clear The Jungle was explained as being humanitarian, but was not only due to the scope of health and human rights violations it entailed–although the camp was quite plagued by E.Coli in piped water, rats, poor sanitation and rampant bacterial infestations, from Salmonella to diarrhea to tuberculosis.  Poor water conditions and unclean facilities are to be expected, perhaps, in an area of such dense settlement–yet the sanitation crisis in the Jungle was far less than in other nearby migrant settlements.  Fears of the growth of the rapid growth of the range of settlements and of the difficulty to contain the hopes of residents seeking asylum or refuge in England were far more prominent reasons for its closure.  For the English, the camp structures became a trigger in the Brexit Vote to leave the European Union; for French, the camps were a crisis in border management and a public embarrassment.  Yet The Jungle was not really monitored or responded to by European governments, but, despite the dire conditions of the camp, instead only by by volunteers or humanitarian groups who arrived on the scene to help conditions improve, like Care4Calais, Help Refugees, Citizens UK, Medecins san Frontières, and many individual volunteers.  “The Jungle is Over,” trumpeted headlines triumphantly, followed, without missing a beat, by “Where will its 8,300 residents go?

The number of migrants who resided in The Jungle is probably an underestimate, unless counting those already departed.  The direction of where they will go or are being moved seems deeply uncertain to the migrants themselves.  When French officials hastily invited departing adults to chose their new destinations after showing them a roughly drawn map of France, what could they understand of where they wished to be transported?  One migrant who responded asked with little sense of his choice, “I chose Brittany. Is that a good place?”  Does the absence of a clear map for migrants who had finally found a sense of place, if one oriented to a voyage many now seem unlikely to make, stand in contrast to the homes that they had temporarily made for themselves in The Jungle?

 

France MigrantsMigrants near Calais Register for Processing on October 24, 2016/Emilio Morenatti (AP)

It may not be at all a coincidence that England’s over-eager Brexit Vote this past July provoked the misinterpretation of the humanitarian crisis in terms of border security, and not addressing migrants.  The surprise rebuff to the European Union in the midsummer provoked the repeated signs of indignation from local authorities, and may have led Calais’ Mayor Natasha Bouchart to vow to dismantle the town that was holding migrants who sought “Brentrance” which at that point numbered 5,000 residents–making the case that “Britain must take the consequence of its choice” after voting to withdraw from the EU, the calls to dismantle the structure were often repeated.   When the refugees left, what was left behind were largely the temporary comforts of settlement that concealed a legal limbo: stuffed animals, blankets, sofas, chairs, magazines, calling cards, clothes, chairs, guitars, bed-rolls, magazines, videos, DVDs, hair brushes, toothbrushes, pillows, and other tokens  improvised domesticity.  Perhaps many were ready to go, but they had waited too long, and without any clear sign of what was in store for them, as the image of England increasingly receded.

 

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The destination of England is prominent in the minds of many, even who lack papers.  Demolition experts had already had a go at dismantling half of the camp’s southern half of tents in March, but despite local authorities’ unwillingness to continue to protect entry to Britain, and question the ability of English to continue to patrol their borders in France, the presence of migrants became a bit of a political football, less addressed embodying diminishing hopes for asylum, as the camps grew to 7,000 in July 2016.  Located almost midway between Paris and London, the camps where migrants settled received no official attention.  As sanitary conditions remained “extremely poor” and far below most UNHCR refugee camps, the lack of apparent order in the settlements and lack of food led to criticisms of the French government and European Union alike, as the camps were understood primarily in terms of border security, rather than as a humanitarian crisis.  Many of the remaining children, estimated at 1,500, remaining in repurposed shipping containers on the site await for registration and wrist-banding, awaiting to be relocated once again, this time without a map of their own, to juvenile authorities where their claims for asylum will be processed by the UK, who will no longer use Calais as a proxy border of entrance but are to be bussed elsewhere in France to learn their destinations, but are understood primarily as a border-related problem in much of the news, and not only the tip of the iceberg of migrant populations:  French PM Francois Holland implores Teresa May about England’s “moral duty,” but May refuses to accept 1,500 child refugees, whose fate remains suspended.

 

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Fears had increased as the camps regained a definite site in the landscape, and the containers provided and built by Logistical Solutions were paralleled by expanding tent settlements with their own structure and readily improvised local economies, as migrants bought and resold goods from nearby Calais, and a migrant suburb or exurb of sorts emerged on the map, even as it was not clearly mapped or acknowledged by local authorities as a permanent settlement.  Even as the improvised settlement expanded in increasingly stable manner–and it came to include increasing Afghan convenience stores, shops, and cafés, and profitable shops from fried chicken to machine rolled cigarettes–including some cooking establishments which happily catered to locals, as well as to the migrants who lived at the settlement–the Jungle was primarily seen as a danger as it provided a site for passage or smuggling to England and beyond, and indeed of the unmanageable precariety of migrant life.  Indeed, as British political movements insist on the importance of quotas to cut immigration, the problem of potential migrants at its borders will not easily go away.

 

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As migrants are understood increasingly in terms of an infection of civil life–cast in metaphorical terms as a bacillus or as a “swarm” or for its potential dangers to civil society, even by former British PM David Cameron–the stability of the Jungle was effectively denied, as it was cast as a site of lawlessness to justify attempts to disband and destroy the improvised settlement as if to contain the refugee crisis.  Calais’ Mayor, Natasha Bouchart, long ago requested to immediately dissolve the camp, and indeed bulldoze its remaining tents and shanties, lest it grow to a side of 15,000, provocatively saying “If we accept this situation [of gradual dismantling of structures], then in six months time there will be not 9,000 migrants but 15,000,” dismayed at the lack of British involvement in the arrival of migrants seeking to enter their nation, but only to fund the construction of further security fences, and dismayed that of the 5,500 migrants sent from Calais to other French départments, many have sought to return to Calais–as Bouchart hopes to encourage other mayors to welcome migrants in their towns.  Yet most want to reach England and social services–as well as relatives and a welcome Anglophone society.

So The Jungle is being dismantled definitively.  This was not the first attempt to do so:  the first plans for razing the southern half of the encampment occurred as authorities required migrants to clear one hundred square meters of shanty towns that were sites of markets, shops, and community kitchens, to create space for one hundred shipping containers repurposed for sleeping quarters, each designed for fifteen cots–without room provided for their possessions save only minimal clothing.  The proposed sleeping bunkers with cots constructed in part with shipping containers from Logistical Solutions to house migrants and refugees, demanded residents to pass fingerprint recognition at their entrance, and were constructed without much consideration for its maintenance or livability for most residents who had arrived–and in ways that were critically described as “new lagers” lacking heating or light, rather than dwellings.

 

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And yet, these structures are wrongly compared to a geography of death, or such an orchestrated policy, so much as a desperate attempt to create order.  For despite the appeal of evoking such a glistening genealogy of control, it invests undue coherence in the attempts of the state to control the migrants.  And it erases the very resourcefulness of a discourse of rights, and counter-cartography,  whose vitality migrants’ own use of creative cartographies of The Jungle suggest.  Fro such plans for eviction met unexpected but quite articulate resistance from groups of migrants in The Jungle, voiced in terms of individual rights, by migrants rightly remained suspicious of the structures as forms of surveillance.  They might have offered a precedent for the clearing of The Jungle–yet the resistance to these evictions suggested a resilience to a new set of rights of residence.

 

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It is almost as if the common patterns of settlement in The Jungle and the comfortably improvised sites of sociability were sought to be obliterated by the French Government, and replaced with more standardized and sanitized sterile structures more readily subject to surveillance by the state, and less able to grow.  Much as the pathways from The Jungle that leads to the ferry terminal has been surrounded by surveillance cameras, chain link fences and triple coiled razor wiretap provide the image of a state apparatus of governance, in something like an instrumental ghettoization by the structure of the security state.  The set of containers were built in January 2016 to contain the Jungle’s continued growth over two years, seeming to contain its expanding residents and the structures that they had assembled on their own.

The logic of patrolling, surveilling, and containing the very migrants whose requests for asylum cannot be denied or ignored in a sort of negative space in which their rights are not outright denied, but are able to be neutralized in ways that can be more easily integrated into the French state as a liminal and transitional space.  The disbanding of the tent-camps and shanty-towns that seemed more similar to Third World nations but were rarely seen in such density in the Eurozone raised eyebrows of many.  But what would be accomplished by moving the migrants was not clear–save an apparent ease of processing their applications, and raising the possibility, doubtlessly, or the fears of repatriating many of the migrants who did not seek to be fingerprinted, and erasing the possibility of a settlement that had thrived for two years of ever being permanent.

The Jungle was difficult to process by legal authorities.  Yet the emergence of “new jungles” in the area, most often located by convenience shops, gas stations, and service stations suggest that the stability of sites that the Calais camp had created may be dispersing into makeshift settlements far more difficult to police in local forests and beside highways–and far less hospitable for refugees of over twenty nationalities who entertain hopes to travel by ferry or tunnel to England or elsewhere:  if the old mud roads and apparent unsanitary conditions of the former Jungle have been cast as a danger, outside civil society and unable to be rehabilitated, the conditions of precarity that existed in The Jungle may remain better organized despite the greater danger of infections and poor sanitary conditions.  Indeed, the problem of removing its inhabitants to site with less health care, women’s centers, and religious sites for prayers.  The site which had attracted over 8,000 refugees from the Middle East and Africa offered a troubling microcosm of the refugee crisis to many, beset by its own inability to accommodate arriving refugees, but had a clear structure that left it a far preferable site for many of its residents–and left many reluctant to leave, despite compliance to do so–with its own internal structure.

 

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Despite the evolution of a clear microcosm of migrant society in the temporary settlement or shantytown, local authorities were seem unable to deal with the small village in clear administrative or existential terms–or to acknowledge it as permanent, leading to a disbanding was designed ostensibly to redistribute refugees and migrants to local redistribution centers across the country from the former landfill site where increasing numbers congregated in apparently unstable and unheated make-shift shelters.

 

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Indeed, Ashram Kitchen, a social club and restaurant staffed by migrants and an Auberge des migrants situated in the heart of the Jungle, and catering to many non-migrants, created its own ‘map’ of the settlement, indicating its permanence for its residents that may have been a bit of a wake-up call for local authorities, perhaps, as the volunteer center and non-profit suggested a remapping of residents’ relation to space of the Jungle, and a domestication of what had seemed an unruly if expanded settlement.

 

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An earlier map, from March 2016, made before the partial dismantling of The Jungle that included the Social Center and led to its relocation from the South of the camp, oriented residents of The Jungle to their temporary homes and offered a somewhat terse welcome.  The hand-drawn map revealed a remarkable coexistence of migrants of different nationalities transposed to sections of the temporary camp; French and English provided the common default tongue, as if in recognition of their common dedication to relocate to imagined future destinations, despite settling in coherent groups form Sudan, Eritrea, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan and Kurds presumably from Syria–from the Chemin des Dunes to the strained hospitality of the far smaller “welcome” sign.

 

tumblr_o3cwxnk6341qaxovpo1_1280Ashram Kitchen, cartographer unknown

 

The handmade cartography that hung at the Kitchen suggested considerable appreciation of arrival at a sense of temporary rootedness that destruction of and forced relocation from The Jungle destroyed–and that the attempts at destroying it had provoked considerable resistance to.  The survival of the map–and its remaking–testified to the intense devotion to place evident in the hearts that were inscribed in the triangles that mark sites of differently sized tents, and communicate the social solidarity of the community that had provided a sense of home, punishment, and even community–including many restaurants that once crowded the mud road that ran through the southern half of the encampment, most often run by former migrants or refugees.

 

Mario's.png“Mario’s” in the Jungle (November, 2015)/Migration Museum

 

The destruction of the site, despite different desperate cries of the displaced, ignored the pleas of residents who had become increasingly attached to the place as a site of settlement–if the attachment encouraged concerns that led to its eventual closure.

 

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Although governments usually make maps, the open-source mapping of  The Refugee Project offered a platform for Shahed Saleem to map the town that had emerged in the port at an installment in London’s Migration Museum.  Soon after local police had demolished southern part of the encampment this March, and fires destroyed part of the town, in trying to give it greater validity and stability in the world’s eyes–to suggest its organization in cartographical terms that we might recognize, but combining subjective and objective features in mapping the settlement to suggest its ongoing collaborative construction outside of any governmental administration, using a census of the shifting settlement of migrants in the camp to convey both its stability and present an image of the settlement less as a site of dirt, squalor and temporary habitation.  Despite the reluctance to divulge information by many residents and displaced–who did not want their identities and fear they may be reported to their governments, or banned from legal entrance to other countries–the construction of the map responded to the image of The Jungle as only a site of transience.

 

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The permanence that was rendered in Saleem’s map created a sense of organic order and local integrity to the Jungle as a habitation, emphasizing its self-planned nature in ways that attempted to give it a sense of presence that might be better recognized in the west, and emphasized its peacefulness and the sheer extent of the settlement camps where so many lived–and even called home–as much as view it as squalid sets of conditions.

 

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Yet the forced eviction of 8,000 to process future claims to asylum, at other temporary accommodations–and the uncertain fates of children, who refuse to be accepted by England as of yet–seems a brutal solution, as folks are sent packing to uncertain destinations–and a depressing conclusion that seems destined to lead to eventual deportation for many.

 

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The transfer from The Jungle after it was evacuated–and destroyed–raised clear questions of the freedom of movement, and indeed of the apparatus of the state to adequately process migrants in an equitable way.  Rather than continuing to allow a settlement to grow in its amazing organic manner that had expanded beyond its bounds–

 

 

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Migrants who had lived in Calais, moving on foot for great lengths, were asked to relocate at fixed centers elsewhere in France, in hopes to process the human mass that had arrived near the Calais port, perhaps in the hopes to find passage to England.  The recent exist of Britain from the European Union had almost prompted French politicians and local police to allow their passage, but the nation tried to process their arrival by disbursing them to some 300 local centers across the nation, opening many centers in hopes as if to better prevent a concentration of migrants in one place, and to better process–although the practice of human redistribution hardly seems fair or economical:  dispersal seems the best solution to make the local concentration of migrants seem less real, especially for migrants who had lived in The Jungle for upwards of a year, and for whom it had provided not only a bridge to a future in England, but the closest that they had known to settlement. To be put on the road again, and asked to acclimate themselves to a new, unknown town and its resources and dangers seems less helpful–especially as they face limited receptivity or welcome in towns that begrudge the housing of migrants by residents of small towns, some of whom have thrown up their arms in desperation in reaction to the government’s request to accommodate a migrant center, and open displays of animosity.

While this looks possible on a blank map, stripped of local social conflict–

 

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the reality may be far more despairing, as the arrival of single men–often from the Horn of Africa or Sudan–whose arrival at often small town Reception Centers may prompt openly racist responses in many smaller French towns, which lack the cosmopolitan sense of a city, or the heterogeneous cultural wealth that existed in The Jungle.

 

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Datamaps of the dispersal of migrants to different regions of France may suggest the resourcefulness  of the nation doing its part, but creates a spatial imaginary that seems oddly and deeply foreign to the migrant experience  itself, in part as it is premised on reinstating the very borders and frontiers that the itineraries of migrants run across, and seem to be designed to show the capacity of providing beds across many of the Départments of the French nation, the predominance of new large centers seem to be concentrated by no surprise in the country’s southern half and are often closer to the Mediterranean or in the country’s eastern border.

 

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The map is presented as an illustration of a deeply humanitarian activity, yet might be read as easily in terms of the isolation and further displacement of migrants, whose paths to a destination have been made all the more unclear.

But the attempts at a forced relocation of migrants who had traveled considerable distances to other sites in France was by no means entirely smooth.  Resisting, many migrants had decided to relocate to Paris by train, instead of  being braceleted and boarding the waiting buses–more than a few refuse to board them, recognizing them as a dangerous diversions from the destinations in England to which they’d long aspired.  While borders are increasingly crossed in a globalized world due to imbalances of wealth, the result was of an even more pronounced juxtaposition of the inadequate allocation of resources to migrants who have an increasingly uncertain relation to European states, making it seem suddenly as if they were destined to shift to the liminal state of homelessness–as they lacked homes to return to.  The increased use of French police to clear such settlements in Paris, near Stalingrad station, will not prevent new settlements from returning, until the human scale and extent of the humanitarian crisis within Europe’s borders can be confronted and assessed.

 

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These images of the contradictions of a globalized economy, that cannot really accommodate migrants save as homeless–or as trespassers on the commons who are sources of danger to social stability–and has failed to find a clearer place for them.

If we map routes of settlement as frictionless travels by buses to eventual destinations–

 

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–we run the risk of erasing their individual stories and aspirations, or the destinations that they once saw themselves as traveling toward.  We are to easily able to see each region as having a limit of possible “places” or open beds, rather than confront the possibility that we are creating more, other jungles, if far from the concrete border barrier being built at Calais.  Indeed, the immediate consequence of the disbanding of The Jungle as a site for the congregation of migrants in Paris, the capital of France, of which migrants had no doubt heard and learned in Calais, of new Jungles which have become the temporary destinations of migrants who were evicted from where they had previously encamped.  The appearance of clusters of up to hundreds of tents, with no adequate sanitary facilities, has provoked what the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, now speaks of as a “desperate humanitarian and sanitary situation,” occasioning the opening of new dormitories, and an increasing indignation of Parisian residents.  The enemies of the new jungles will be in close proximity to their inhabitants.

 

Encampment in Stalingrad post-Calais.pngCharles Platiau/Reuters

2 Comments

Filed under Brexit Vote, data visualization, humanitarian maps, Jungle, refugee camps

2 responses to “The New Jungle: from Calais to Beyond

  1. Randy Starn

    The current Architecture Biennale in Venice curated by Alejandro Aravena is about emergency conditions and challenges in the world at large. There is a very relevant section for this post on ephemeral cities that you might take up in another post. The exhibit makes such things look “normal,” but your wonderful post exposes that as an architect’s fantasy. Really good and important–as usual.

  2. Such a sad story. We need to have a new idea of community constructed on meeting people’s needs.

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