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Calais ‘Jungle’ Closure A Welcome Decision

The recent decision by the French authorities to close down the refugee camp, known as ‘The Jungle’, in Calais is a welcome move.

It had been determined that the camp would be dismantled by ‘the end of the year’, and half it has already been demolished, with the rest looking like it will be taken down in the coming days.

France’s interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters “I want the closure of the camp as quickly as possible,”. He also said that the closure would happen “with the greatest determination” in order to “unblock Calais”.

How many people live there?

Estimates to the population of ‘The Jungle’ vary wildly, from 6,000 to over 10,000. What is especially harrowing is the number of unaccompanied children there, estimated at over 1,200.

Why did ‘The Jungle’ form there?

An agreement was formed in February 1994, known as the “Le Touquet agreement”. This treaty was signed by the then President Jacques Chirac and ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair and came into power one year later. Under this agreement, UK officials were allowed to vet potential immigrants into the UK at Calais, effectively moving Britain’s border into France. This has caused a backlog of migrants to build up in Calais, and causing Britain to build huge, policed walls there.

Recently, many French officials have called for this treaty to be ripped up, partly because of their frustration with Brexit. Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, however, has been to France recently to try and quash this proposal.

What are conditions like?

Conditions have been described as “post-apocalyptic”, “dangerous” and “squalid”. Yet, for many of these migrants, conditions are still infinitely better than the alternative of their home countries, where war, rape, torture and death are prevalent. Therefore, the decision to rip apart these people’s homes has not been taken well. Demonstrations have caused riots, such as this recent clash between French authorities and Jungle residents:

What will happen to the refugees there?

Under the Dublin 3 EU Regulation, any refugee must make his/her asylum request in the country that they first arrived. Of course this isn’t always possible to find out, and so many will make requests within France. The caveat to this is that the refugee may make an asylum case to another country if they have relatives there, and this is the case for an undermined number of people living at the Jungle; estimates put it at over 200.

Anyone who fails an asylum request faces deportation back to their country, however, this again isn’t always possible to prove, meaning many will stay within France.


– UNHCR News Briefing.