Accepted paper:

Jungle politics: games of power in Calais refugee camp

Author:

Yasmine Bouagga (CNRS)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores politics in Calais refugee camp, thus questionning how forms of dwelling shape practices of power and agency. State institutions, NGO, independant volunteers and refugee community leaders are involved in the governance of a city not recognised as such.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores politics in Calais refugee camp, thus questionning how forms of dwelling shape practices of power and agency. Located in northern France, Calais camp became in 2015-2016 the largest slum in Europe with up to 10 000 people living in it. Its inhabitants are initially migrants attempting to cross the border and enter England but are prevented to do so by controls on the French side. With the increasing number of refugees entering Europe and the strenghening of these controls in 2015, the population of informal camp sites in Calais increased and the authorities decided to gather migrants on one site located outside of the city. Equipments were minimal and very soon a shanty town emerged. Local and international volunteers intervened massively from Fall 2015 to improve squalid living conditions in the camp. French authorities were also compelled to do so, but provided only undersized equipments, such as a camp for women and children (capacity : 400) and a container camp (capacity : 1500). In the meantime, volunteers and NGOs set up alternative public services, and designed forms of participation of refugees in the daily governance of the camp. Based on ethnographic fieldwork (Feb-Oct. 2016) this paper aims at showing how the diverse forms of dwelling in Calais and their fundamental precariousness shape peculiar forms of political participation, legitimacy and recognition, constraints and opportunities. These games of power in a city that is not recognised as such exemplify the condition of refugees.

panel Mig06
Jungles, squats, camps and houses: ethnographic accounts of refugee dwelling practices in the context of the recent "refugee crisis" in Europe and the Middle East