The Other Jungle: What’s Really Happening In Calais?
There’s the facts, and then there’s the press.
Today, the French government continued moving migrants out of the Calais "Jungle" camp, in preparation for the demolition of the camp tomorrow. At final count, there were 8,143 migrants who still required relocation this morning. The government aims to begin tearing down the area later today.
But, depending on what you read, there are two very different Jungles hitting the headlines.
On the one hand, the Jungle is facing a peaceful process of migrants getting wristbands at certified checkpoints, before they move on to buses that take them to refugee centres set up around France. Although delays have occurred from the government running out of buses, there’s a unanimous feeling that, slowly, migrants are leaving the camp with relatively minimal disorder.
The other Jungle is on fire. If you take the headlines of the British print press at face value, it would seem that the relocation process has become violent. The front pages of the Daily Mail, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, and the Metro all depict riot police, in full gear, on the move as the camp is seemingly burning around them. The image looks like a war zone.
But how much truth is in a headline?
Indeed, whilst thousands are moved out, it seems that many journalists are more concerned with getting in. It’s hard to find coverage of the camp without catching cameras and microphones poking questions at queues of people waiting to find where their next home will be. You’re more likely to find fighting over press passes than passports.
Hundreds of migrants, many of them Sudanese queuing in the dark to be taken Calais camp. Almost outnumbered by media pic.twitter.com/JATZshOb1y— lisa o'carroll (@lisaocarroll) October 24, 2016
The world watches as the press meticulously documents every possible angle of the Calais clearout. There’s no shortage of information available for those that want to look for it, but the message the majority get from the inflammatory front page fireworks show does not tell the whole story.
If you look at the coverage from many news outlets, the process is peaceful for the most part. The reality is queues, interviews, and stock checks. But, undoubtedly, tales of terror, violence, and chaos sell better. The public is being distracted from the truth with literal smoke and mirrors.
The real problems with the process have little to do with violence. There are 49 unaccompanied children under the age of 13 that will remain in the Calais camp for another night, as registration dragged on and buses ran out. Michael McHugh, a volunteer from Refugee Youth Service, said “the question should be ‘when can we demolish the site’ and the answer should be ‘once we have the children cleared’ — not the other way round.” Last week, the press called for dental checks to verify the ages of these children. Have they not been through enough?
The BBC are broadcasting the clear-out on Instagram. Sky News coverage can be found on Snapchat. It’s relatively easy to see that the recycled action shots of the burning bins and the handful of migrants that surround them does not accurately describe the truth of the operation. Identifying this is not denying that it happened.
Reports suggest that a portable toilet block was set alight, and some outlets are claiming that the tear gas fired was in response to stones thrown by some migrants. But to claim that “Calais erupts in violence” is both misleading and inaccurate. Public opinion is provoked into protest by irresponsible headlines that do not tell the whole story. Here’s what’s really happening, as told by the people who are there right now. Warning: the following footage contains no flashing lights.
It's a day for goodbyes, as thousands of refugees + migrants leave the Calais 'Jungle' in France. Some have been there for years. pic.twitter.com/cKaa5jDvdt— UN Refugee Agency (@Refugees) October 24, 2016
Very calm in Calais as hundreds of migrants volunteer to leave. Sudanese and Eritrean mostly in queue for processing center so far— lisa o'carroll (@lisaocarroll) October 24, 2016
Morning in Calais; a few dozen migrants wait to be processed, surrounded by camera crews. A depressing sight. pic.twitter.com/NjywPgWicK— Jonny Dymond (@JonnyDymond) October 24, 2016