Philippe Huguen / AFP / Getty Images

Calais camp residents: ‘Wish we weren't here’

Migrants and refugees are selling cards with images of their lives in the ‘Jungle’ ahead of International Migrants Day

Although Banksy graffiti can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars on the art market, the image has since been covered up by the town's authorities. The piece, however, is featured in one of cards being sold by camp residents.

The Calais “Jungle,” where thousands of migrants and refugees camp as they try to make their way to the U.K., now has its own set of postcards.

Migrants living in the notorious camp on the country's north coast have produced a series of “Wish we weren't here” cards to sell to tourists.

The postcards will go on sale Thursday, priced at one euro ($1.09), a day ahead of International Migrants Day on Dec. 18, when refugees will also conduct tours of the camp.

The poetic and often humorous scenes include refugees cartwheeling on the beach as well as police tear-gassing the camp, and an abandoned boot on the rail line leading to the Channel Tunnel captioned, “Cinderella has a brother.”

The refugees behind the idea said they wanted to show how they are trying to make the best of life in the mud of the shanty town as they bide their time hoping to find a way to get to Britain.

“We photograph the beautiful things as well as the suffering,” said Syrian teacher Baraa Halabieh, 31, who fled his home in Hama earlier this year for the quagmire of the former rubbish dump on the outskirts of the port, now home to 4,500 people.

“I want them to be postcards to [the] future,” he added. “I dream of a time when people will drive past here and the ‘Jungle’ will be gone and people will never believe that such a terrible place existed. All that there will be will be these postcards.”

With Calais' mayor — who this month barred refugees from using the town's swimming pool — complaining that bad publicity about the “Jungle” had destroyed its tourist trade, the postcards make a point of showcasing the town’s breathtaking beaches.

In a nod to the British street artist Banksy, who secretly visited the camp last week, one card subtly features an image he left behind on a wall near the beach showing a child with a suitcase peering longingly at the British coast through a telescope.

With hundreds of migrants being rounded up by police in recent weeks as French authorities clamp down on the camp, many are fearful about venturing outside the camp during daylight, she said.

Local hostility to the migrants has been growing, with the anti-immigrant National Front taking nearly half the votes in Calais in regional elections last weekend, their highest showing in France.

Nineteen refugees from the camp have died in the attempt to reach Britain since June, with one postcard showing a protest in the camp after a 16-year-old Sudanese boy called Joseph was killed earlier this month trying to get onto a truck.

Wire services

Related News

Find Al Jazeera America on your TV

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter


Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter