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The present city of Calais is formed of the joinction oftwo towns. Calais in the north ,harbour, of fishermen and corsairs before being of ferries, and fortress. And Saint-Pierre, industrial district that has developed thanks to lace looms smuggled from England in the nineteenth century. Between the two cities, a sandy area, called for this reason “Sahara”, where was built the town hall of the new common formed by the meeting of Calais and Saint-Pierre.

From either side of this area, prolonging one another along a north – south axis, the main streets of Calais and Saint-Pierre, now Royal Street and Boulevard Jacquard, are edged with shops, bars and restaurants. If closed, it would devitalise the city center.

In April 2015, when the migrants were forced to settle on the land where the Calais shantytown is now, shops and restaurants that were already existing in slums distant from the center were also installed there. When three water points ended up to be installed under pressure from associations, one of them was in one of the shantytown access, in the continuation of rue des Garennes. Soon, the stalls have settled around. Then other along two paths that already existed, leaving one to the south and serving the former municipal landfill rubble, the other north up getting lost in a sandy area. Fairly quickly these roads have turned into streets lined with shops and restaurants and around which is organised the center of this small town that became the shantytown.

The southern part of this shopping street was destroyed in March 2016, along with the southern part of the shantytown itself. Close the shops and restaurants of the northern part, what the authorities has tried to make in the course of this week (see here, here and here), would devitalise the shantytown that has reorganized its northern part spared from destruction.

In 1940, a part of Calais, former Calais before the unification of the two towns, was destroyed during the taking of the city by the German army. The occupation authorities have given few days to the inhabitants to retrieve what was possible among the ruins, then surrounded the area of a wall to make it a no-mans-land for preventing intrusions in the harbour.

In January 2016, a part of the shantytown was destroyed on a strip of 100 meters along the ring road leading to the port and the route de Gravelines, to be a “no-mans-land” (the term used by authorities) to prevent “intrusion” of “migrants” on the ring road. Then in March, the southern part of the shantytown was rased.

The ports of the English Channel and the North Sea are surrounded with fences, barbed wire and detection systems, forming an “Atlantic Wall” of a new style, since it is reversed to prevent people to leave France or Belgium to join the UK. In Calais, fences dot the city, surrounding the areas west of the Channel Tunnel and east of the port, and begin to wrap the city along the ring road. Areas trees and bushes have been razedto allow monitoring of the surroundings, lands were flooded to prevent passage.

Formerly, the port and the port station were right next to the city center. Today the port is surrounded by grids, and you come out turning your back to the city by the ring road surrounded by grids that will be further extended by a wall. Who moreover still stop in this town surrounded by grids, except the people stranded there at the border?

This border affects both the town as the shantytown where the authorities have concentrated the migrants on the other side of the ring road and its gates.


LouiseHannah-street léger

The main street of the shantytown, par Hannah Kirmes-Daly et Loup Blaster.