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So where is that clear conscience?

The Jungle in Calais shocked me when I went there before Christmas. I have been to refugee camps, war zones and slums before but nowhere so utterly lawless. Still, nothing had prepared me for the camp at Dunkirk which makes the Jungle look like Chipping Norton.

In a swamp of mud, families huddle together in the bone-chilling cold. There is no electricity or water or proper toilets. Everyone coughs continually. The children have scabies and draw pictures of bombs, executions and unnameable atrocities, but they are still children who play with toy cars in the mud.

These camps do not conform to any agreed UN humanitarian standards because somehow we have decided - the French and the British - that these people are no longer human.

Thus they can be cleared away with tear gas and rubber bullets, their arms broken by batons, their phones, the lifelines on which they have recorded their traumatic journeys, the first thing the French police smash. These creatures without a state, without a home, are to be forcibly moved into shipping containers. Or "relocated" in France, a place where they have been on the receiving end of much brutality. They burn their finger prints off rather than do this.

And with the camp in flames, there are the children, little boys sleeping in a ditch that the doctors I was with knew.

The police pulled us over and warned us about talking to Islamists. These kids were 10 and 11. The doctor told me of the Eritrean women forced into sex work by traffickers and all the time I was cold and fearful, but just an hour away from London.

So now they are clearing The Jungle that may house 7,000 people. This, the French say, is a deterrent and will stop more coming. Right? Well, it hasn't worked before. Sangatte was cleared, remember? This is actually just the beginning of a refugee crisis that is only going to get bigger. We can build walls and flesh-ripping wire, and tear gas children in the name of protecting our values, our civilisation, our way of life. But where is our conscience? Dredged up face-down on a beach or abandoned in a burnt-out tent.


BURNING Jungle in Calais is being cleared

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Title Annotation:Features; Opinion Column
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 2, 2016
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