With France leading the way in calling for European solidarity in dealing with the so-called migrant crisis, pressure is mounting upon the European Union to deliver a solution. Countries such as France have taken initiative to design ways to make Calais less appealing as a halfway house between France and the UK. By destroying the ‘Jungle’, French police aim to restore structure to its migration policing, through increased monitoring to establish migration patterns and deter future arrivals.
However, the method in which France is dealing with what it identifies as a humanitarian issue is arguably less than humane. Powerful images show the demolition of housing with dramatic scenes of migrants protesting against the upheaval in their lives. For those who have fled war or persecution, having already been evicted from their home countries by force of circumstance, this is undoubtedly a harrowing experience, and one which will provide them with anything but security or reassurance.
France’s disproportionate use of force has been heavily criticised. Migrants are desensitised to violence, as are those watching the scenes unfold within the comfort of their own homes. The use of tear gas, water cannons, and anti-riot police has been slammed by critics as evidence of harassment tactics to cause distress to those who are already losing homes. Issued with one-hour ultimatums, migrants are forced to leave or face the prospect of injury through violent means. For a humanitarian operation, the emphasis on treating humans as humans seems to have gone amiss.
As few as 2000 migrants, mainly women and children, will be allowed to remain
The claim that there are shipping container shelters for those who have been forced to leave is an insufficient gesture. As few as 2000 migrants, mainly women and children, will be allowed to remain, with the rest being forced to either give up all hope of asylum, or move to reception centres elsewhere in France.
Fabienne Buccio, the Prefect of the Calais police prefecture, conceived the strategy of clearing the Jungle, to ensure migrants have their details recorded to process asylum claims faster. Since September 2015, there has been an almost 50% drop in the number of migrants in the camp. Large numbers are accepting financial help to return home; a practice which has increased six fold. Buccio complains of violent, close-minded British activists; Shoreditch House was attacked with smoke bombs as a protest whilst the French Ambassador for International Investment, Muriel Penicaud, was reportedly inside. The empathetic granddaughter of an Italian immigrant herself, Buccio insists that new arrangements such as razor wire fences will ensure security for both France and the Channel. However, she fails to mention that the humanitarian situation within the Calais Jungle will not subside with these measures.
It remains to be seen whether France will humanise its approach to a historically inhumane practice. This is the Sangatte riots all over again, with more at stake. The Brexit threat on the horizon means British campaigners are calling for dissociation with such practices, which they argue may drive more migrants to come to the UK to avoid inhumane treatment in Europe. Regardless of what happens in the EU referendum, it is clear that the UK’s responsibility has been waived to backseat driver, as we watch the Channel destroy itself.