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The excessive media coverage of the Calais shantytown has been used both as a sounding board and a bullhorn by Calais’s extreme-right-wing. It began with masked press conferences following vigilante night patrols with the police near the camp and the ring road leading to the port. Likeminded groups from all over France come to Calais to lend a hand to extreme-rightists in Calais and the surrounding region, using the situation as a means of broadcasting and spinning events to propagate their own vision via posts and videos posted on social media (see here and here).
Meanwhile, in the shadows, individuals have used vehicles to stage swift violent attacks on exiles sometimes leaving their victims for dead. In February 2016, one vigilante group was arrested immediately following an attack, which in turn led to further arrests. News of the arrests sent a shock through extreme-right groups in Calais, causing schisms in some groups and causing some individuals to drop out. The group dynamic began to lose force, even though it didn’t entirely disappear.
Then came the destruction of the encampment, the closure of State sponsored shelters and local protective structures, and the expulsion of the camp’s inhabitants.
Almost as soon as the shantytown was taken apart, extreme-right activists began searching for the slightest evidence of “returning migrants.” These searches for evidence quickly became a hunt for those places where exiles found shelter. These discoveries are filmed, revealing locations where people are hiding, then diffused on social media and passed on to the police.
Once filming ends, and the camera is turned off, if the vigilantes are numerous enough, the fun begins – insults, intimidation, destruction, violence, as a number of exiles have testified. At this point a sophisticated game of “candid camera” ensues. When the camera is off, provocation, and if the victim responds the camera is swiftly turned back on to record am excellent image of “aggressive migrants.” The general situation is growing tenser, exacerbated by the fact that the police are never far off, and the complicity between police officers and extreme-right activists remains significant.
Dürer: The Apocalypse