Clearing the Jungle: Images From the Razing of the Calais Camp

Very often pictures are able to tell stories that words can’t describe. Journalist Sara Prestianni went to Calais to document what happened before, during and after the clearing of the migrant camp there.

The pictures taken during the days before the clearing show migrants standing in long lines in order to be identified. Identifications are needed to decide who has the right to stay in France, who has to be deported to another EU Country (such as Italy), and who has to be sent back to the Country of origin.

Minors were separated from adults and taken to CIE centers, but some of them were excluded from the shelters and had to sleep in the streets.

Migrants wait in line to be bussed away to migrant centers across France.  (Image: Sara Prestianni)

A political move

“This clearing out was a theater set up specifically for the 2017 elections. There were 700 journalists from all over the world," writes Sara Prestianni.

In the article that Prestianni wrote for Open Migration, she explains that the clearing out was in reality a political move done in order to show the humanitarian side of France while at the same time reassuring the right-wing electorate that the border with England is cleared.

Razing the Calais camp was partly a political move to pander to the concerns of the far right. (Image: Sara Prestianni)

"After staying in the Jungle just for a few hours, one realizes that there won’t be many migrants who will be able to apply for asylum in France," writes Prestianni.

In fact, many of them were identified for the first time in Italy, where their fingerprints were taken, sometimes with the use of force or trickery. Bernard Cazeneuve, France's interior minister, has decided to suspend the Dublin III treaty, but the application of the treaty will be decided by each prefecture individually.

The fires

The Jungle started to burn during the night of October 25. It isn’t clear who started the fires; perhaps the migrants as an act of rebellion, or perhaps those who wanted it to disappear as fast as possible. After the fires came the bulldozers. It won’t be long before the ten hectares are completely cleared of any sign of the camp.

Fires burned in the camp as it was closed and cleared. (Image: Sara Prestianni)

“But as in Calais, 'jungles' have been destroyed and rebuilt for the last 20 years. There will always be such jungles until the border with England will be closed," notes Prestianni.

Whatever remains of the camp will soon be cleared away by bulldozers. (Image: Sara Prestianni)


After the clearing, authorities started to hunt down migrants in the streets of Calais. All those without documents were immediately taken to identification centers.

In the days after Calais, other clearings followed. One was the camp near the Stalingrad metro station in Paris, where the same procedures of Calais were applied: migrants were identified and taken to centers, the space was cleared, and police then went on the hunt. The Paris prefecture declared that it will apply the Dublin III treaty.