“They say they are prepared to die for this cause. It won’t be long before they do.”
Calais, France — Desperate volunteers in a Calais refugee camp have issued an urgent plea to the U.N. to recognise the plight of a group of Iranians who sewed their mouths shut a week ago. The extreme protest — joined in solidarity by a British volunteer — was initiated to draw attention to the atrocities being carried out by the French government.
The latest shocking tale to unfold from the Calais camp — known as The Jungle — began on March 1st to raise awareness of the human rights violations taking place. Homeless, jobless, and now hopeless, eight Iranian men aged between 17 and 46 sewed each other’s lips shut in the extreme form of protest against the forced evictions of the southern side of the squalid camp. Their bold move has been supported by British volunteer, Tom Radcliffe, who has joined in solidarity.
The decision by the French authorities to dismantle the camp has had significant implications for the 3,500 refugees living there, over three hundred of whom are unaccompanied minors. Legally, the authorities can only evict people if they are able to offer alternative accommodation, but France has grossly underestimated the numbers.
A few residents have moved into shipping containers and centres throughout France, while others have shifted to the northern part of the camp, which volunteers predict will be next to be cleared. Organisations on the ground believe there will be more temporary encampments as refugees continue to be hounded by the police. Volunteers report people camping in fields, churches, under bridges, and in abandoned buildings with no sanitation, water, access to aid, or other facilities.
Despite a ruling that the dismantling of The Jungle was to be humane, video footage from a volunteer showed residents running from clouds of tear gas. Eyewitnesses said the camp was lined with riot police and claim residents were given an hour’s notice to leave, many without alternative accommodation to move into. In general, most refugees in Calais have strong ties to the U.K., and many have family they are waiting to be reunited with. Others lived in Britain previously.
Since beginning the hunger strike, the men’s condition is deteriorating rapidly according to The Worldwide Tribe:
“These men were already weak from their traumatic journey across Europe. Many of the refugees in the camp are suffering from illness and infection, malnutrition and post traumatic stress syndrome. Although they are determined and focused, they are now gradually growing weaker by the day. They say they are prepared to die for this cause. It won’t be long before they do.”
In a desperate plea to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, a petition drawing attention to their plight has gathered thousands of signatures overnight. Demanding the United Nations assess the camp conditions and witness the human rights breaches taking place on European soil, it calls for a stop to the demolition of the camp until adequate alternatives are put in place. You can sign it here.
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