UPDATE FROM CALAIS ACTION: 23rd October 2016
Post date: 23-Oct-2016 23:28:32
Tomorrow camp residents will be required to leave the camp under the watch of heavily armed police and form separate lines according to men, women, families and unaccompanied children - in an enormous hangar a few hundred metres from the camp.
This is a process that could have been managed in an orderly fashion phased through weeks or months but has instead been forced into a few days. Vulnerable people who could have been identified and saved from immense anxiety and suffering before the press and police arrived will be processed along with the rest.
Consequently, with thousands of people expected to be processed in a matter of hours, and insufficient information being distributed, we anticipate a lot of anxiety, chaos and confusion. At the last evictions tear gas and force were used and this time it could be no different. Volunteers on the ground report that there are still men, women and unaccompanied children in the camp who do not know where to go or who to report to. The danger is that they will simply pick up a backpack and disappear, as they did during the last demolitions in February and March.
We're also concerned about the attitude of the British media who appear to be gearing up to watch a fight - the language currently being used about the eviction feels like a war commentary - as if the camp itself is a huge criminal gang or an invading army, instead of thousands of people who are there for different reasons and with different decisions to be made about their futures. However the strategy chosen by the authorities is making a tense situation worse. It's important to remember when you watch the coverage that any conflict will be intensely focused on - the media want to see blood - and that the actions of a few (if they happen) do not represent the actions of the residents of the camp as a whole.
Volunteers have been busy informing camp residents of the process for tomorrow and trying to make sure that they know where to go and who to report to. We hope that tomorrow will be free from provocation and that those residents who choose to take up the option will be processed safely.
This demolition is a temporary, and politically expedient solution. Calais may be quiet for a while, but small scatter camps will spring up in its wake, as they have been doing for years. Whilst we live in a world riven with war and terrible inequality, and with the push factors of bombing, dictatorships and extreme poverty outweighing any pull-factors - those who are forcibly displaced from their countries will never stop coming.
Photo credits: Caroline Gregory in Calais