The Migrant Situation in Calais

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Since 2015, the migrant situation in Calais has been presented as the result of a “migration crisis,” illustrating the strategies used by the French state to make migrants invisible and deflect attention from them: in 2002, the accommodation block and humanitarian emergency reception center at Sangatte were closed; in 2009, the “Pashtun jungle” was dismantled, and there were incentives to clear the town center by opening the Jules Ferry daytime reception center in the Dunes industrial park; in 2016, the “Calais jungle” was dismantled, followed by all the other camps. The security governance of migration is accompanied by humanitarian relief: support for migrants is initially conducted in emergency mode, with provision of basic necessities. If the Calais situation illustrates “the encampment of the world,” in the words of Michel Agier, it also reveals the way borders have been transformed depending on individual persons and their status: the Le Touquet Treaty (2003) and the building of an anti-migrant wall and fences in Calais are evidence of this. Finally, the presence of migrants in and around Calais results in local militant action being taken by anti-immigration protesters, those who are worried about the consequences of their presence, or by inhabitants showing solidarity with the migrants. With increased media exposure, the arrival of new, more professional national and international actors has led to tensions with local actors who have long been engaged with the problem on the ground.

Migrants in Calais - successive camps and fences, 1999-2018

Source: authors’ compilation based on press reports and satellite images (Google Earth) between 2000 and 2017. Map base: Open Street Map 

Comment: The map of the town of Calais and its surroundings highlights two local aspects of the migrant situation. On the one hand, the sites allowing access to the United Kingdom – the Channel Tunnel entrance and the port of Calais – are inaccessible because fences and walls several meters high have been built. On the other hand, camps, reception centers, and squats where migrants assemble have all been dismantled by successive French governments since the early 2000s.

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" The Migrant Situation in Calais " World Atlas of Global Issues, 2018, [online], accessed on Mar 15 2021, URL:

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