One week in Calais, 10 years on from the closure of Sangatte refugee centre

The events to commemorate the closure of Sangatte began on Sunday 3rd November with a march from the old site, now just a field, to the cemetery where those who have died attempting to cross to the UK are buried.

Fifty people or so gathered as a mini hurricane raged, and moved off, lead by a Samba band visiting from Belgium with new recruits garnered from a Samba workshop the previous day. At the front of the march, lifesize wooden effigies were adorned with the life stories and aspirations of asylum seekers.

The following day, a circle of silence was held at Parc Richelieu in the centre of town, where many migrants hang out during the day, the silence broken by another Samba infused march to the Food Distribution space.

Sangatte related Media coverage has been quite intense and on the whole sympathetic to the continued depravation of shelter and moreover calculated destruction of any squats or Jungles that migrants fashion for themselves. Two consecutive two page articles appeared in the Calais local paper, Nord Littoral as well as a feature in the national paper, Liberation. A piece was also broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondant’ programme:

Perhaps as a consequence, there were no evictions in the week or so that I was there. If there had been, I think the police themselves would have been accused of one of their own favourite charges of ‘outrage’.

The series of Sangatte Commemorative Events continues (see previous post : 24th October) but I fear that the period of respite will not last so long.