Displaced communities have found themselves on French soil for decades. In October 2016, the famous ‘Jungle’ camp in Calais, which at its height was home to over 16,000 displaced people, was dismantled and demolished. There are currently around 900 people living in informal settlements across Calais and Dunkirk.
The policy of the French and British governments is to prevent formal camps from establishing again in Northern France. They do this through systematic evictions of living spaces and ongoing police harassment and violence. Between August 2018 and June 2019 there were 803 evictions in Calais and Dunkirk. Between 1st November 2017 and 1st of November 2018, associations recorded nearly 1,000 incidents of police violence against displaced people in Calais. Difficult past experiences combined with present-day police aggression and evictions take a large toll on children’s mental health and well-being.
Children living in informal camps and temporary accommodation centres in northern France are denied their right to an education. They live in inhumane conditions, with no access to state protection or support. They have undergone difficult journeys and now find themselves victim to police harassment and violence in France. For many families, the UK represents a last hope for safety and sanctuary and the only option to give their children a safe future. Many of the children we work with attempt regular crossings to the UK, which of course leads to further distress, disruption and poor health.