Exceptionally, and for the political reasons I have explained here, the photographs presented here are under copyright and should be asked for a written authorization to be republished.
Two days ago, I had the opportunity to go back to Calais along with a small group of students and professors (Vibeke Jensen and Anders Rubing) from the architecture school of Bergen. This visit happened a few days after French Ministry of Interior Bernard Cazeneuve met with Mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchart, vowing to demolish the so-called “Jungle” and relocate its residents in various hosting centers throughout the country. Such announcement came a few days after another one, made by Robert Goodwill, the Immigration Minister of the new Theresa May UK government: two weeks ago, he announced that a new 4-meter tall wall was about to be built in Calais along the highway leading to the port — the construction started yesterday. This comes as an additional layer of militarization of the port’s vicinity that already counts numerous police cars, CCTV cameras and two to three layers of 4-meter tall barbed wire fences (see photographs below). The cynicism that consists in investing millions of euros/pounds into these drastic policing measures and their violence, rather than offering accommodation to the thousands who fled war — an important amount of the “Jungle” residents are now coming from Darfour — or other extremely dire situations, reach new levels with the construction of this wall, which is planned to be dressed with “plants and flowers on one side to reduce its visual impact on the local area” (source: The Guardian).
My arguments on the matter have not changed (see the report of the first trip, as well as of the second one): our position should be less articulated in humanitarian terms than in political ones. The premise of such a position consists in the categorical denial that the situation constitutes a crisis, on the contrary of what is described at length through the press and politician (left and right) speeches. The only crisis there is, is the one displaced persons themselves are experiencing. The second premise of this position is another refusal: one that goes against the collective Western imaginary that consider displaced persons as a negative currency, disincarnated statistics whose winner is the one that gets the least of it. It also turns around the liberal critique: the Calais’ “Jungle” is not a place symptomatic of the lack of action of the French and UK States, which makeshift dwellings never reached a satisfying level of comfort and dignity because of their residents’ lack of skills: it is a place symptomatic of the actual action of the French and UK States, which makeshift dwellings never reached a satisfying level of comfort of dignity because of the way their residents have been consistently prevented to undertake the construction of a proper urban entity. The antagonizing and patronizing aridity of the container camp, and its heavily controlled access (by palm recognition, through turnstiles) appears as the only architecture legitimized by the French State: a space where bodies are treated as mere statistics with only minimum needs, and where they can be controlled spatially. At a time where sulfurous candidate to the presidential primaries of the French Republican party and former President Nicolas Sarkozy affirmed (erroneously) that when one becomes French one’s ancestors becomes the Gauls — a fictitious people as a whole coined by the Roman invaders in the first century B.C. to designate the totality of the nations under Roman domination in the West of the Empire — we might want to use the trivial imaginary he implies (the popular graphic novel series, Asterix) of a Gaul village besieged by Roman invaders to construct a comparison with the situation of Calais’ “Jungle.” The Gauls may not look the way Sarkozy and other French nationalists might think in this case, but they would be well inspired to see in the resistance of this village against the drastic means deployed against them, the legitimacy they have no trouble to romantically attribute to those they believe to be their ancestors.
Former so-called “Jungle” between 2002 (after the closure of the refugee camp of Sangatte) and 2009 when it was evicted by the French police.
This photographs shows the Southern part of the “Jungle,” destroyed at the very end of February 2016. Only the Ethiopian church (see below) was speared from demolition (the same cannot be said about the small Abu Bakr mosque) and remains as a testimony of this part of the village.