What’s next for Calais?
A lot of people have been asking what is next for Calais following the evictions in the camp, so here is an update:
Firstly, the crisis in Calais is not going away. That might be what the French (and UK) governments hoped for, but it simply isn’t going to happen. To understand why, it is necessary to understand why there are refugees in Calais in the first place, and what has happened in Calais in recent weeks.
In 2015 over 70,000 people made asylum claims in France (source: Eurostat). 440,000 made claims in Germany. Against this, the 6,000 in Calais is a small number, so why are these people here? Generally the refugees in Calais have very strong ties to the UK, so that is where they want to be. Many have close family living in the UK that they want to be reunited with. Others may have lived in the UK before. Some served with the British army in places like Afghanistan, and that is the reason they have had to leave their own homes – because they helped us. These strong ties mean that they will continue with their quest to get to the UK. They will not abandon their families and their hope having come this far.
So what is happening now?
The French authorities are in a race against time to dismantle the camp as quickly as possible. This is because it has been predicted that as soon as the weather become milder we will see more and more refugees arriving in Calais. It has also been predicted that more of these will be families.
Legally the French authorities are only able to evict if they can offer alternative accommodation options (hence the gross underestimate of numbers in the camp by the authorities – they only had around 1,100 places available, so they had to estimate that this was the maximum number being evicted). Once thousands more begin arriving in the spring they would have no chance of destroying the camp.
So what is happening to those being evicted?
- A few have moved into the shipping containers – but there is hardly any space left
- A few have moved to the centres around France – but a recent report showed that over 25% have already come back to Calais, and in any case these are due to close on 31 March
- Some are moving to the north of the camp – but we believe this will be next to be cleared
- The Dunkirk camp will be evicted next week and there are not enough spaces in the new camp there for everyone
So people will, and already are, dispersing around the area. There will be more and more small, temporary encampments as groups of refugees are hounded to move on by the police. They are camping in fields, churches, under bridges and in abandoned buildings. In these temporary camps there is no sanitation, no water, no access to aid or other facilities.
We must therefore adapt our aid operation. We need to become mobile and flexible as our jobs, and their living conditions become harder. We will work harder and find ways to help them. For months, we have been requesting large tents, large stoves and gas bottles and food that can be cooked in bulk in community kitchens. That’s changed.
Going forward, we need:
- small (but still robust) tents
- sleeping bags and blankets
- small stoves and small gas canisters
- food which requires either no cooking or limited preparation
- water, lots!
- wind up torches
We will still need clothes, socks, waterproofs, boots and phones. Most of all, we need more volunteers and more donations. A mobile operation does not allow the previous economies of scale. It’s more expensive and requires more people. We will need to fundraise for another, or maybe two more, vans. Thank you so much for your support so far. Now, we need to not only maintain our efforts, we need to increase them.