Can Europe Make It?

Spring in the Jungle, after the fire

The author returns to the Calais Jungle to find Nature covering old wounds, and governments causing new ones

Sophie Besse
16 June 2016

All photos by Sophie Besse

Just back from Calais. As always, very different from what I expected.

I knew about the fire, obviously. So I wasn't suprised by all the new tents everywhere nor by the fact that a lot of refugees were already half way in the process of rebuilding their shelters. I know by now how resilient and resourceful they are.

No, my big surprise was Nature: Spring in the Jungle! Yellow flowers everywhere where the southern part of the Jungle used to be, before the destruction. Really nice in a way, it brings some kind of peace and beauty. But very disturbing in another way. Indeed, you have the camp that is overpacked on one side (5180 people, exactly the same number as before the destruction) and this big empty field on the other side that covers over, little by little, what used to be people's homes and lives.

I was very moved when I saw a half buried shoe  - all the work of nature. Probably in 6 months there won't be anything left of it. At least on the surface there won't. Yes Nature is bigger than us...

The other big change is the new wall that is being built around the camp so that refugees can't access the motorway that goes to the UK any more. Yes, a wall. It seems that we don't learn much from history. And the reality, of course, is that refugees have already found a way around it. Of course they have ... Told you they were very resourceful!

So they just watch all that money being wasted isolating them from the society rather than employed to help them. The symbol of the wall hurts a lot. The reality of it is not a problem. They are confident they will still be able to reach the road quite easily.

So some of them will continue to die, like this Sudanese young man. My friend S. was with him when it happened. They were in a lorry. The police put some teargas in it so they jumped out, my friend ran crossing the road but the Sudanese boy was not fast enough.

Baaaaaaaam! as my friend says.... This sound has been haunting him day and night ever since. So yesterday we put a flower for the Sudanese boy, as you would do for any human being who's been run over.

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Join us for a free live discussion on Thursday 22 October, 5pm UK time/12pm EDT.

Hear from:

Paolo Gerbaudo Sociologist and political theorist, director of the Centre for Digital Culture at King’s College London and author of ‘The Mask and the Flag: Populism and Global Protest’ and ‘The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy’, and of the forthcoming ‘The Great Recoil: Politics After Populism and Pandemic’.

Chantal Mouffe Emeritus Professor of Political Theory at the University of Westminster in London. Her most recent books are ‘Agonistics. Thinking the World Politically’, ‘Podemos. In the Name of the People’ and ‘For a Left Populism’.

Spyros A. Sofos Researcher and research coordinator at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University and author of ‘Nation and Identity in Contemporary Europe’, ‘Tormented by History’ and ‘Islam in Europe: Public Spaces and Civic Networks'.

Chair: Walid el Houri Researcher, journalist and filmmaker based between Berlin and Beirut. He is partnerships editor at openDemocracy and lead editor of its North Africa, West Asia project.

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