KID LOST (Texts by Clé Hunningan)
There was nothing abnormal about this particularly February morning. The night before had dropped to -3 degrees. I exhaled ghostly breaths as we followed the route suggested by the GPS. As we approached our destination, I noticed a marked area on our electronic map called ‘The New Jungle’.
With each further zoom, more detail became obvious. There were markers and pins labelling shops, restaurants, religious places of worship, a theatre and even a nightclub. Other areas on the map had been pinpointed with names such as ‘Rue de Syriens’ or ‘Camp Kurde’.
In summer of 2015, the camp was still a shanty town of tents littered with mounds of rubbish. It never dawned on me that my plan to experience the conditions of a squalid refugee camp would be met instead with the structure of a makeshift village or the warmth of a sharing community established by the humans that call this place home.
The camp, renamed the New Jungle, has been evolving since 2002 and is a controversial home for a mix of migrants and refugees. It has frequently been destroyed by French authorities who are trying to curb illegal immigration. Nevertheless, the ‘New Jungle’ has managed to remain and even grown to a current estimated population of 6,000 inhabitants.
However, this week is a pivotal week as it has been declared by French courts that the southern half of the camp, home to 3,455 people including 445 children, would be permanently demolished and the inhabitants forced to leave, if necessary.
This order has been met with a backlash from refugee advocate groups who fear that evicting people from the camp could leave a large number of refugees with insufficient shelter. There is also a concern for the safety of children, of which 315 are unaccompanied minors. The expulsion of the camp will see a church, several restaurants and cafes, a library, school and medical centre razed.
I managed to get down to Calais for this crucial week with Kid Lost, a project focused on humanising refugees and people in conflict.