Advertisement
VICE News

Church and Mosque Bulldozed in Calais Jungle Refugee Camp

French authorities arrived early on Monday morning to bulldoze two of the symbolic landmarks of France's Calais Jungle migrant camp, after promising they would not be destroyed.

by Sally Hayden
Feb 1 2016, 1:06pm

Photo via Caroline Gregory

VICE News is closely watching the international migrant crisis. Check out the Open Water blog here.

Volunteers in the French refugee camp in Calais say authorities bulldozed two of the symbolic centers of France's Calais Jungle migrant camp on Monday morning.

A church and a mosque were both destroyed, despite prior assurances from authorities that they wouldn't be removed, according to volunteers on the ground.

Caroline Gregory, a volunteer with the organization Help Refugees, told VICE News that there hadn't been any notice given, and that officials arrived at around 9am local time this morning. "No one knew, no one realised because everyone was asleep at this time of the day," she said. "So they'd basically done it before people had a chance to realise what was going on."

The makeshift church and mosque were in the Kurdish area of the camp, which is roughly organized according to nationality. Gregory said four shelters around the more well-known Eritrean church, St Michaels, had also been removed. These included the priest's house.

Related: 'I Would Rather Die': Migrants on Countdown to Be Evicted From Calais Jungle Homes

"We're not certain if the main church is going or not, but at the moment it looks quite likely," Gregory said, adding that no reason had been given for the latest clearances.

Gregory said she felt this was another towards the destruction of the entire unofficial camp, which is home to around 5,000 — mainly young men, but also women and children. "It's more general destroying and trying to push the camp inwards and trying to get rid of it," she said. "They're taking these steps gradually and I'm sure they're going to continue to do so."

She said the reaction from those camping there was "shock and horror because the church was kind of symbolic, and disgust that they can get away with doing this thing without going through the proper channels."

VICE News contacted the Calais authorities for comment but they did not immediately respond.

The latest clearances come three weeks after around 1,500 migrants and refugees were forced to move or abandon their shelters when the French authorities announced they were clearing and levelling an area around the perimeter of the camp, as part of a plan to reduce the Jungle's population to 2,000.

The authorities have built a new smaller camp, made up of converted shipping containers in a fenced off area, but migrants are hesitant to move into it because they believe they would be constantly monitored and forced into applying for asylum in France.

The Jungle's most famous center of worship — St Michael's Church — remains standing for the moment. The BBC's Songs of Praise — the world's longest-running religious TV show — filmed an episode there last summer.

St Michael's Church in the Calais Jungle, which has so far escaped bulldozers. (Photo by Frederick Paxton/VICE News)

Related: In Photos: Dunkirk's Refugee Wasteland, Even Worse Than the Calais Jungle

Follow Sally Hayden on Twitter: @sallyhayd