“Jungle finish”, the migrants keep saying.
The French authorities are congratulating themselves over this “clean-up” operation, and they announced that others like it will soon follow in the streets of Paris, where over 2,000 migrants are scraping out an existence in the Stalingrad area.
The curtain falls, the hunt begins
The curtain has fallen over Calais. Very few are reporting that since the evacuation was declared complete on Thursday, October 27th, an outright migrant hunt has begun in the streets of Calais, or that almost 200 minors have found themselves excluded from protection, forced to sleep outside among the ashes.
The 700 accredited journalists who were there have all left the city.
Bulldozers are completing the destruction, their work made easier by the fires that have turned the makeshift shelters to ash and dust across the 10 hectares of the Calais Jungle.
A show evacuation, the right of asylum denied
As in 2009, the French government opted for a “spectacular” approach to this evacuation, thus officially entering the 2017 presidential campaign.
5,000 migrants have been transferred to CAOs [Centres d’accueil et d’orientation, reception and orientation centres] where they will have a month to decide whether or not they want to seek asylum in France. With this operation, France has bought itself a humanitarian face, while at the same time reassuring right-wing voters that it has “cleaned up” the frontier.
And yet, no authority has divulged the fact that very few of these migrants will actually be able to apply for asylum in France; but this is very easy to understand after just a few hours in the Jungle.
At least 80 per cent of the jungle’s population travelled through Italy. Many have an Italian residence permit, which is often a form of subsidiary protection. A lack of employment prospects, however, led them to leave and to attempt to reach the UK. Others have been identified in Italy and, by virtue of the Dublin Regulation, therefore must apply for asylum in our country. However, they say, too often their fingerprints were collected forcibly or under false pretences.
Ibrahim, a young Sudanese man, says that Italian police officers persuaded him to be identified, promising that the collection of fingerprints was just protocol. Now he fears that, when the time comes to apply for asylum in France, he will find out that it was more than just a formality.
French Interior Minister Cazeneuve had promised a sort of moratorium on the Dublin Regulation, announcing that no one going voluntarily to the CAOs would be sent back to Italy, even if they were identified there. This is what was promised, but it remains to be seen if the prefects will deliver.
Calais burning, history repeating
The jungle had already been burning since October 25th. The fires were an act of rage, brought on by months of pressure and violence. An act of liberation, which was partly caused by those who wished the jungle gone and quickly.
Soon enough the camp will disappear amid the fire and the bulldozers, but with the further closure of the borders between France and England, and all the migrants still trying to reach a supposed British El Dorado, more jungles will appear along the coast.
History will repeat itself, as it has for the past twenty years, and the destruction of one jungle will be followed by the creation of a new one. The migrants brought to the CAOs will learn that they must return to Italy because that is where their fingerprints and documents are. And the evacuation will end up being just another electoral ploy, leading to the forced displacement of thousands of people.
All pictures courtesy of Sara Prestianni (Arci Immigrazione).
Translation from Italian by Francesco Graziosi and Alexander Booth.