What’s next for the refugees of Calais?

It has been a tumultuous week for the people of “the jungle” that is the in-situ refugee camp in Calais in France. The camp, which was established in the mid-2000s, saw its population boom from a few hundred to a few thousand – over 9000 to be exact. For months, the French government has been threatening the closure of the camp yet has not accelerated or increased the rate of support to speed the processing of refugees that arrive at the camp.

As the camps population continued to grow throughout the summer, the French authorities this week announced of the closure of the camp and the clearing out of its inhabitants. As I watched the camps population board buses to leave the camp, I couldn’t help but wonder what is next for them? More importantly, what is next for a human population that refuses to open its doors to people who are in need? Worse yet, how can there be such little support for the refugees coming to Europe, when a few decades ago it was the people of Europe who were fleeing Europe on boats?

The French authorities have had years to develop a system to move people out of the camp. They have had years to collaborate with the UK government to reunite people with their families in the UK and they have had years to set up an expedited transit system to process the camps population. Instead, the French authorities decided to burn the camp down and provide refugees with an option of what province they are relocated to in France as they await further processing.

In terms of offering background on the province, what lies ahead, what situation they will be in, whether they will continue to live in tents or if adequate housing, healthcare and education has been set up with them, they were not offered any information.

The phrase “beggars cannot be choosers” comes to mind, but these people are not beggars, they are not asking for money, they are asking for an opportunity to live respectfully after their houses, families and lives were burnt down in their home countries. The refugees come from countries that have suffered for decades, and in the past the French forces have participated in “bringing freedom” to their home countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

The timing of the destruction of the so-called Jungle refugee camp in Calais seems nothing more than a strategic power play by the French authorities to steer the election by making it look like they are in complete control

Yara al-Wazir

These three countries put together make up over 25 per cent of the camps population, according to data by the Refugee Rights research group. There seems to be very little logical reasoning in bombing another country to free its people, but not helping those who flee to the country that allegedly wants to free them.

Most reports indicate that the refugees will be moved to reception centers where their cases will be processed in approximately four months. What happens next is dependent on the outcome of their case investigations.

The reality is that the amount of time it takes to respond to a humanitarian crisis depends on the amount of political power that is at stake – in this case, the French presidential election is coming up in 2017. The timing of the destruction of the so-called Jungle refugee camp in Calais seems nothing more than a strategic power play by the French authorities to steer the election by making it look like they are in complete control. This is clear in the reports and comments coming from the French media.

If we take a step back and question why erasing this crisis off French soil is required for the election, we will realize that there is a portion of the population that is insensitive and bears little to no empathy with refugees. If history has taught us anything it is that there is no peace in injustice, and no rationale in hatred. Angela Merkel identified refugees to be an ideal economic opportunity and agreed to accept them; unfortunately her neighbors do not share her rational thinking.

This week I am sad for the refugees whose tents were burnt down, but also disappointed in the lack of empathy shown by humanity. What would happen if you had no place to go?

Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:49 - GMT 06:49
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