It is holiday time in Europe, so there is a lot of traveling going on. A lot of Britons are leaving the country via the Dover-Calais crossing. In recent weeks, that was not so easy. The holidaying Britons in search of the sun are faced by a large group of refugees who are trying to enter the UK from Calais. Last night, more than 1,500 people tried to enter the Eurotunnel, which of course causes a lot of chaos and delays.
This problem is not new. In 1999, the Sangatte refugee camp was opened in a big department store outside Calais. But in 2002 riots broke out between Kurds and Afghans in the crowded camp and it was closed. Since that time the migrants live in so-called “jungles” — makeshift tent camps without facilities. The French government allows this in former chemical dumping grounds. Earlier this year, the day centre Jules Ferry was opened, where people can get one hot meal per day. Currently there are about 3,000 migrants in the jungle. It is one of the routes taken by refugees if they survive the Mediterranean Sea crossing. This film by the Guardian gives an idea of life in the camp:
These people are desperate and can not go on with their life without a residence permit. They fled violence in Eritrea, Sudan, Afghanistan and Syria. The different ethnic groups sometimes have conflicts with each other. But now they begin to work together. This is highlighted by the new tactics that we saw this week. Instead of trying to climb up trucks (which we saw when we moved to the UK), they now tried to directly get into the Eurotunnel with a group. The goal is to climb on a train or on a truck that has already been throught customs.
The only answer that British politicians give today is ‘fences and security’. All of it reminds me too much of the world in the film Children of Men. If the refugees are only seen as a security problem, a troublesome spot on our shiny Eurotunnel, they are not recognized as human beings. Eventually, migrants are looking for a normal life with school and work. Something that has always been a natural thing to me. I cannot imagine what it would be like to flee for thousands of kilometres and risk your life in order to build a ‘normal life’.