Reflections on a camp that once was…
Dissonance is a term I have used a lot when describing what I think about Calais and that term could not ring any more true than it does now. I’m happy on one hand, the deplorable living conditions of the jungle are no more. I’m sad on the other, for I know that this has not secured anyone’s future and leaves some people more vulnerable, detained or even more unsure of what awaits them.
This was the destruction of a community, a home for thousands. A thriving community that despite the huge adversity it suffered, made the most of what they had, supported each other and blurred the borders of nationality to survive the conditions of the Jungle.
It was a community that erected churches, developed and maintained a micro economy and created a high street and pop up restaurants. It was a community fueled by trauma, tragic stories and on the other hand resilience and courage. They are marginalised and criminalised, othered and demonised. They are strong and resilient, brave and thoughtful.
For many, with the demolition of the camp comes the loss of their hopes and dreams, aspirations and safety net that supported them after treacherous journeys. It has been the dismantlement of not only tents and shacks, but homes, relationships and communities.
The eerie nothingness of a site that once housed thousands cuts through you. As you walk through the remnants of people’s lives, it hurts. To think of those that have successfully made their transition, either through reunification or Dubs, makes you happy, those are journeys that are just beginning.
They are however, only a fraction of this demolished community. It didn’t fix the problem. The problem is deeper than a practical solution to the migrant crisis, but rather lies in its narrative and construction.
Borders are constructed — They are a product of humans
War, rights abuses and unrest is constructed — Another product of humans
Thus logically, diaspora is constructed — The result of humans inflicting pain on other humans.
The migrant crisis is a result of humans neglecting other humans basic needs and rights. The narrative that drives it fueled by Xenophobia, hatred and misinformation.
The key word here is humans. Ultimately, borders become irrelevant, politics dominates but should be irrelevant. Humanity in these times should prevail, the basic care and love between humans. The restoration and creation of relationships, communities and tolerance.
A narrative that focuses on the strengths other humans have to offer. A narrative that empowers fellow humans and recognises the trauma and extraordinary feats of bravery. A compassionate narrative that removes borders and prioritises humanity. One that does not serve a political agenda, one that doesn’t hail saving 50 kids out of 1,500 as a success. One that focuses on the needs, wishes and aspirations of our most vulnerable, as a global society. A society in which humans are directly responsible for the infliction of pain and suffering — It is a collective responsibility as a collective society.
It’s ignorant to hate those you don’t know. It’s inhumane to place the value of their lives lower than your own. It’s painful to live in a developed country where people consider their luxuries an entitlement, when millions have nothing.
This is the narrative that needs to change. This is the construction we need to fight. Demolishing camps won’t work when there is no welcoming solution to support those in need. The media attention is all but over, the exciting bit has happened now — The fires, everything we ogle in the media, gone. But remaining are still the plights of thousands of people who desire a safe place a life and a community that can support and enable their dreams and aspirations. Don’t think that just because it isn’t in the paper it isn’t there — because it is, and with the loss of their supportive community, it’s intensified. Thinking this way may be uncomfortable, good, because it should never be comfortable.
So as the curtain comes down on the Jungle as we know it, it is by far the end of the crisis, or the end of the construction or narrative that fuels it. The deplorable conditions of the Jungle may be no more, but don’t think those conditions don’t just now exist somewhere else. Let’s change the conversation, let’s make it about humans.