Paris is sometimes considered as the suburbs of Calais, from the point of view of migration to the United Kingdom. More precisely, a place where one arrives due to the centralization of the transport network in France, where one can inform himself, orient a bit, make contacts, await a opportunity to leave, sometimes also choose to stay in France.
Relating this to the British border, the increasing of controls in the port of Calais (2000), then around the Channel Tunnel (2001) and the closure of the Sangatte Center (2002) strengthened its role as a waiting point to go to in case of heavier police pressure in crossing places.
The camps in Paris, which appeared after the closure of the Sangatte Center, reflect this role of the city in the migratory routes, but also the French governments policy of non-welcoming that means leaving on the streets all people seeking protection (minors, asylum-seekers), and the general regress of public solidarity which leads, among other things, to an overcrowding of emergency acocmodation devices and forms of segregation always more evident in the welcoming.
As in Calais, the policy is that of dismantling, destructing encampments, with or without arrests, police harassment. In the course of 2015, with the big media coverage of the migrants arrivals in Europe and the solidarity movements that grown from it, the displacement is followed by the dispersion towards places of accommodation more or less precarious , with or without support, in all the Île-de-France and beyond. These places of dispersion have gradually become more permanent and have been integrated into the Centers d’Accueil et Orientation (CAO – see here, here, here and here), created to disperse the exiles of Calais and then Grande -Synthe, near Dunkerque.
It is precisely in Grande-Synthe that the first humanitarian camp appears on French soil (see here, here and here, in French). Created by Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and the town hall to overcome a catastrophic humanitarian situation, its consequent mediatization makes it a desirable thing in the political scene. Faced with a “refugee crisis” fantasized about its scale compared to the continent, it reproduces on the European soil the saving action of the western NGOs in front of the crises in the third worlds. Adorned with this aura, it makes undergo as normal an instrument of segregation, and serves as a veil for reinforced repression.
In fact, following the announcement made in the spring by the mayor of Paris that one or more refugee camps were to be set up there, the idea of relocation of dispersion in the CAOs disappeared during expulsions of camps, that meant being left on the streets with nothing, with raids and police violences. The media coverage of the opening of the humanitarian camp during the six months that separates the announcement of the opening of the place (luckily NGOs are faster in the zones of crisis) covered the brutality of the reality (see here and here in French and here in English).
After the destruction of the slum of Calais, the camp finally opens. At the entrance there’s a big white bubble, that has eaten a good part of the budget of the project, and which should -without any doubts- express the roundness of a welcoming cocoon. One entrance and two exits in this bubble, one towards the inside, the other the outside. Are made go back to outside the couples, families with children, women, minors, and, in general, all people who do not intend to stay in France. Sometimes these people would have been offered a more or less precarious accommodation solution, and sometimes had to wait for hours in the bubble, where it is forbidden to eat. For those allowed to enter, only men, the prefecture of the Paris police, which has been totally unable for years to register an asylum application in less than several months, organizes in a few days the taking of fingerprints and the possible placement under Dublin procedure which marks the registration of the application. Four hundred places, an accomodation period of ten days at the most, no question to ask yourself to reflect, and you are already on the way to different centers far away from there.
Back to the streets for the majority, and there the dispersion, the police harassment and the systematics raids, sort and deplacement for the others: that’s the logic of the camp of Paris.
The Prisoner, TV series from the seventies. A fake village, in which the inhabitants have the illusion to be free while around there are big, white bubbles that control and catch all those who try to escape.