The humanitarian situation of migrants and refugees in North France, by the association Walking in the Streets’ Essence (WISE), represented by Clément Franzoso (4 December 2017, screening of Not My Life).
“I have been thinking for days and days how I could explain what’s happening there, how I could describe it so well that you can really imagine what it is like, and I was thinking: Am I the right person to talk about it? We could not take the jungle to you … So we thought: let’s take YOU to the jungle“. (Clément Franzoso)
Welcome to the jungle
Since the closure of the Sangatte centre in the North of France in 2002, we have been facing a humanitarian situation that I will try to describe briefly here, no judgment and no ideology are defended here.
The name “Jungle” is said to have been given by Iranian exiles – “jungla” in Farsi means forest. Many jungles came out in the 2000s, among others the jungles of Téteghem, Norrent-Fontes, Steenvoorde, Basroch in Grande-Synthe and finally, the jungle of Calais. The origin of the people there varies over time and depends on different factors, whether religious, geopolitical, national or international. We mainly met Kurdish, Iranian, Iraqi, Syrian, Afghan, Malian, Guinean, Sudanese, Senegalese and Eritrean nationals. People of all ages, men, women and children live together in these chaotic landscapes.
I grew up in Grande-Synthe, a northern suburb of Dunkirk. At the end of 2015 up to 3,000 people were bogged down for days or even months. When nights were cold families were given shelter in people’s houses or in hotel rooms paid for by associations and individuals. Sanitation and health problems were getting worse and the fear of deaths due to cold or disease reached its peak during the winter of 2015. The situation was deteriorating and therefore MSF and other associations urgently built wooden shelters of 5 m² for four to five persons and provided collective tents after the example of German refugee camps.
The camp of La Linière was set up in March 2016 thanks to Damien Carême, mayor of Grande-Synthe. The exiles of Basroch, who were in a very difficult situation before, experienced an incredible change in their living conditions. This first and as yet only humanitarian camp in France constitutes an unprecedented progress in this region. The camp was run by Utopia 56, a French association that works in consultation with the mayor. Assistance is usually provided by individuals and members of local, national or foreign associations, a mix of very different organizations, religious, political or simply humanitarian ones. Some of the volunteers have been involved in this for more than ten years.
Fire in La Linière ….
The conflict between authorities and associations intensified when some of the shelters were dismantled and newcomers were refused. Utopia left the site and let a semi-governmental organisation take over. The dismantling of the jungle of Calais put on the La Linière camp an unsustainable demographic weight. On 11 April, at 1.00 a.m. a fire destroyed part of the camp.
The reactions of the French authorities are getting harder and living conditions are pushed to the extreme. Humanitarian aid is increasingly difficult to provide. Associations still present in the camps have continued their help until the present day but their work is ever more complicated because of the dispersal of exiles and the constant creation of scattered mini-jungles. The desperation of these people, who have come so far as only a few kilometers from Dover, is worrying. Possible wild crossings, by swimming or with dinghies, would put these people in great danger. French Flanders’s beaches could become the theatre of another humanitarian disaster.
This call is above all a call to humanism, to altruism, we need many items and we need them all the time as you saw in the video. You can participate in many ways and you can find here all information to do so if you are interested.
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Thank you so much in advance
Be humanitarian, be wise.
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Video and title photo by Albano Franzoso