Heaven Crawley responds to the eviction of ‘The Jungle’ camp at Calais, arguing that it is largely a symbolic attempt by the British government to reassert ‘control’ over borders in the context of Europe’s political crisis. The eviction, and the reinforcement of the wall alongside the port of Calais, does not address the refugee crisis and the diverse reasons for why people move. Yesterday, the UNHCR announced 2016 has become the deadliest year on record for people trying to cross the Mediterranean seas to Italy and Greece, with more than 3,800 men, women and children died or were reported missing. Borders kill, of that there can be no doubt.
The violent borders of which Reece Jones speaks so powerfully in his excellent book are now so much a feature of our everyday lives that it’s difficult to be shocked by what we see and hear. Images of bodies washing up on European beaches would engender a sense of horror and outrage a year ago, yet they now pass us by. Today we see desperate people waiting to be rescued in rubber dinghies that have taken in water, creating an oily chemical sludge, in which some of their fellow travellers lie lifeless. A human soup of bodies rotting in the heat of the sun. Still no one seems to care, much less do anything.
Nowhere can this be seen more clearly than in the events of the last week which has seen the destruction of ‘The Jungle’, a ramshackle collection of tents, caravans and building constructed from pallets and other materials found to hand, as well as buses and caravans, located on a small area in the sand dunes to the east of Calais. Even the name that this place has been given is a symbol of Otherness, suggesting a wild, untamed lawless environment in which people roam freely and uncontrolled. The refugees and migrants living within its increasingly regulated boundaries have been talked about as though they were animals, fighting for survival and wilfully, cunningly trying to escape from the fences and barriers that have been built along its boundary in an effort to cage them in.