This morning the belated, much delayed construction of the « New Camp » began. The work was supposed to begin on the 2nd of November 2015. The associations have stated that this date was missed due to « communication problems » with the people living in the area. Actually, the people have consistenly refused to leave.
Finally this morning the work began. The first bulldozer to arrive came at approximately 08:00am. It drove amongst people’s tents and homes and removed the red poles that indicated the planned construction site. It was soon followed by other heavy construction vehicles throughout the morning. For the moment they seem to have restricted themselves to flattening open and flooded areas and putting up fences that deliniate the new site area. However, it will be impossible to begin real construction whilst the people still live in the zone.
Following shortly behind the diggers came a wave of « humanitarian » volunteers from the Associations. Wearing a plathora of differently coloured fluorescent jackets, they around the explulsion zone telling people that they had to move thier houses and dwellings. They attempted to convince people that the New Camp would be far superior, and many stated that if people did not move soon, the police would come and evict them by force. Belonging to the Salaam and Vie Actif associations, there were around 50 volunteers present, including the President of the Salaam Association, who was seen louldy instructing a group of refugees who mostly didn’t speak English that they had to move. They carried orange wristbands, which they gave to people who wanted to take a space in the new camp.
The sudden appearence of heavy construction vehicles and flourescent clad volunteers did persuade some people to leave the area, picking up thier tents and houses and moving them elsewhere in the jungle. However the vast majority of the people chose to stay. They cited many reasons for doing so, namely the difficulties of living in a large tent with up to 50 people that they didn’t know with no privacy, the preference for homes that they had built themselves rather than something that they had no part in constructing, a preference for living in established communities of friendship groups and a complete lack of trust in the French state. Many of the people living in the jungle do not want the new camp.
It should not be suprising to see how far some of the associations collaborate with the state. They have a long history of doing this in Calais. However it is still shocking to watch people giving thier time to volunteer for aid organisations doing the work of the police for them. Many of the volunteers argued that the construction of the new camp was a necessary step to improve the conditions in the jungle and to « get people the help they need », however at the same time many acknowledged the coercive nature of what they were doing, with every request backed by the threat of state violence to move the people. There was great feeling of pessimism, that nothing could be done to stop the inevitable progess of the state. If the people had shown the same levels of defeatism and pessimism, they would have left the area on the 2nd of November and work would have already began!
By the end of the day the association volunteers left having convinced a proportion of the people living in the zone to leave and a small amount of construction work had taken place in the uninhabited areas. CMS believes that there will likely now be an eviction of the zone by police either tomorrow (Friday the 13th) or on Monday (16th).