Introduction

The Jungle 2016

On 18th January 2016  the authorities started bulldozing a hundred metre swath of the camp creating a no man’s land between the camp, the motorway and the Chemin des Dunes entrance. I first visited between the 28th and 31st January, at which time homes had been demolished and an earth barrier constructed around the western part of camp. The excavation of the scrubland between this new boundary and the road was still being created. There was a lot of unrest and on the 31st January as some of the riot police were distracted by a fascist anti-migrant demonstration in Calais, a group of migrants tried to break through the fence onto the motorway to board lorries. This resulted in a two hour battle between the riot police and migrants where the police indiscriminately fired tear gas into the camp which affected everyone there; men, women, children and volunteers alike. Those badly affected were choking and vomiting and medics were spraying people’s eyes with neutralising spray. I was blowing smoke into people’s eyes as this also seems to have a neutralising effect. I left for the ferry with tear gas impregnated in my clothes, my eyes and face still stinging, vowing I would return and help.

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I returned for ten days between the 14th and 24th of February and the no mans land was a bare expanse flanking the roads (ideal for playing football and cricket). A judge visited on the 23rd February to see the camp for herself but on 25th February the court in Lille sanctioned the demolition of the southern part of the camp, despite it being home to over 3,000 people, including many families and unaccompanied minors. The demolition started on 29th February and was met by resistance, however, within two days the police suppressed the  protest with tear gas, water cannon and arrests. I litter picked, massaged faces on pamper day in the women’s centre and worked with the distribution team, taking pictures of the shops and restaurants, views over the camp as well as documenting the activities in the warehouse.

I returned again on 10th to 13th March to a scene of utter devastation. The demolition was continuing and had reached the shops near ‘Afghan Square’ which led to the northern entrance of the camp. Volunteers were moving shelters from the south to the north however, migrants who did not want their shelters moved preferred to burn them themselves rather than face the ignominy of having their homes demolished. On 12th March one of these self burns got out of control and there was a devastating fire that swept through the last section to be demolished. These were mainly shops and cafes which had gas canisters and these exploded violently, fuelling the spread of flames more rapidly. A significant swath of the remaining southern section was destroyed before a fire engine was allowed in to quell the flames.

I took photographs of the police movements during the demolition and the fire. My last day was spent photographing the devastation wreaked by the fire.

The Jungle now after the demolition has been completed.

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