Violent Abandonment: researching the Calais Refugee Camp – @SocioWarwick Seminar Wednesday 20 January

Violent Abandonment: researching the Calais refugee camp

Dr Thom Davies (Sociology, University of Warwick), Dr Arshad Isakjee and Dr Surindar Dhesi (Geography, University of Birmingham)

Abstract: Surviving in informal refugee camps is fast becoming the lived reality for thousands of refugees and migrants who are entering Europe. Abandoned and neglected, these spaces have become the de facto solution to European political inertia. The Calais camp in northern France has become a significant point of transit for refugees and migrants during the ongoing ‘refugee crisis’, many of whom intend to travel onwards to the UK.  In April 2015, 1500 migrants living throughout Calais were forced to re-locate to a new single site known as ‘The New Jungle’. Set on the periphery of the town, on a polluted area previously used as an informal dumping ground, this Zone is now home to over 6000 men, women, and children. Unlike formalised refugee camps, the ad hoc nature of the ‘New Jungle’ and the limited role of the state present significant public health challenges and a unique case study in Europe. This presentation draws upon findings from two recent ESRC funded research visits to the New Jungle, the first during the birth of the camp in April 2015 and the second in July 2015 during the height of the “#CalaisCrisis”. We present novel inter-disciplinary, mixed-methods research documenting living conditions in the Calais refugee camp. Having conducted a comprehensive environmental health survey of the site including collecting air, water, and food samples, observations and interviews with refugees (Dhesi et al 2015), as well as innovative visual methods – we uncover the substantial threats to the wellbeing of residents living in informal settlements as a consequence of state policies of de facto abandonment. We conclude that the impact of European and national policy in Northern France amounts to nothing less than a public health crisis. We frame this in terms of a violent abandonment, drawing upon the work of Galtung (1969) and Nixon (2014) and their conceptualisations of violence.

You can see details of forthcoming speakers and download a poster here